Like Thomas Sutpen returning to Yoknapatawpha County, we’re back.
The annual preseason game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, usually reserved for a Week 4 which now no longer exists, was moved to Week 1. The starters, who usually play for at least a drive or two in Week 1 before being benched for the depth guys, didn’t see the field at all last night, which we’re all used to seeing during Week 4 of the preseason between the Patriots and Giants, even though that Week 4 matchup is now a Week 1 matchup because the NFL got rid of a fourth preseason game. So Week 1 is kind of like Week 4, just moved up to Week 1 since Week 3 is now technically Week 4 since Week 4 is caput.
Everyone got all that? It’s worth as much attention as anything we saw last night, so I certainly hope so.
Since this is the preseason, I really shouldn’t call these Fan Notes. They’re really more meaningless observations and stupid commentary on a game I watch while enjoying one or three too many adult beverages as opposed to...
Well, exactly what I do when I write these during the regular season, so never mind.
Not much to take away from last night’s game, and I won’t be watching any of the replay footage, so here are a few knee-jerk reactions to what we all saw.
- Hands down the best part of these few weeks in August, for me at least, is to play my favorite preseason game, “Who The Hell is That Guy?” Multiple players wearing the same number, new names on top of old numbers, and the occasional guy I had completely forgotten about until late into the fourth quarter. Last night’s winner was safety Jalen Elliott, who signed with the team 10 days ago and is one of two players currently wearing the number 36. We also have two 2s, two 4s, two 9s, two 35s, two 72s, and two 74s. So glad to see that the NFL charges full price for these tickets.
- Speaking of new name, old number: Tyquan Thornton seems to be wearing No. 11. I’m looking forward to New England playing in their throwback uniforms with the white pants, as Thornton is so skinny it’s going to look like that 11 starts in his mid-back and goes all the way down to his shoes.
- These games also represent the opportunity for me to figure out which player has a last name that I’m not going to figure out how to spell until at least December. The early 2022 frontrunner: Drew Desjarlais. The good news is that I doubt he’ll see the field much this season, assuming he even ends up making the final roster, which is unlikely.
- If you don’t know who Drew Desjarlais is, not to worry. There’s a good chance you didn’t know who any of the other offensive linemen on the field last night were either. The only lineman slated for a Day 1 start to see any reps was rookie Cole Strange. So there’s just nothing meaningful we should pay attention to or take away from this game whatsoever.
- Living in the NYC area, I’ve watched the last 15 Pats/Giants preseason games on the New York local syndicate, which always features Bob Papa and Giants legend Carl Banks in the booth. And while Banks is no Scott Zolak, aka that drunk uncle you never invite to family gatherings but he finds out about it anyway while stalking his step-niece’s Instagram at 3:30AM on a Tuesday and so he shows up and ends up peeing in the pool, Banks is always good for a few gems every year. A few of my faves for 2022:
- “One thing I like about Daniel Jones is that when he goes through his progressions, he knows where the check-down is. That way, when no one else is open, he can throw to his check-down, the last progression he looks down.”
- “You’ve got your second team quarterback Tyrod Taylor getting ready to go into the game, which means this is a great opportunity for the depth guys to show their communication with the depth guys.”
- Just after Bob Papa announced a Bailey Zappe completed a pass to Tyquan Thornton halfway through the second quarter. “Bryan Hoyer, this quarterback for the Patriots is a Tyrod Taylor-like QB as well. Very seasoned and very experienced.”
- With the starters all resting last night, this game was more about seeing who was out there as opposed to who wasn’t. Presumably, the majority of the guys we saw out there were the players who aren’t on top of their respective depth charts. And for what it’s worth, starting corners were Malcolm Butler, Terrence Mitchell, Jalen Elliot, Joshuah Bledsoe, and Myles Bryant.
- Linebackers were Raekwon McMillan, Josh Uche, Mack Wilson, Anfernee Jennings, and then an interesting combination of defensive backs playing in that shallow middle zone. No clue if this speaks to that positionless defense everyone has been blathering about, but something to pay attention to.
- On the offense, the depth receivers put on something of a show. We know what we have in Kristian Wilkerson, but Tre Nixon and Lil’Jordan Humphries both made strong cases for one of the last few roster spots. Nixon seems to have the inside edge, as he was utilized in the kicking game as well.
- Speaking of, one of the things I mentioned I’d be looking for was who returned kicks; most teams trot out a number of guys on punts and kickoffs to see who offers value at the position and which guys might be able to earn a roster spot as a special teamer. Tre Nixon and JJ Taylor got all the kickoff reps, while Myles Bryant seems to be the guy on punt returns. So way less variety than I was expecting.
- But speaking of variety, there’s a new commercial circulating right now for the Frito Lay Variety Pack featuring Mark Morrison. Mark Morrison, we all know, is the artist behind what is arguably the single greatest human achievement that has ever occurred or will ever occur. If you were a teenager in the 90s, like me, who brought their lunch to school rather than risk mystery meat and brown goop from the cafeteria line and always had a bag of chips from that variety pack, that commercial hit the nostalgia feels harder than any unread Rodney Harrison safety blitz.
- I don’t think I’m alone is that I was most excited to see what Tyquan Thornton was going to bring to the table last night, even though this game didn’t matter. I wanted at least one deep ball to Tyquan Thornton, and I got it late in the first quarter where Thornton broke up the sidelines and drew an Illegal contact penalty to set up a new set of downs. For what it’s worth (as I’ve already established, it’s worth, as Jim Mora would say, diddly poo), Thornton blew right by him and had to slow down significantly to get to Hoyer’s pass. Bailey Zappe was also unable to throw it deep enough to match Thornton’s speed.
- And yes, I’m going to take every opportunity to gush over Thornton’s speed because I’ve been hearing about it nonstop all offseason.
- But beyond that, there were some little things to be optimistic about regarding where Thornton’s at at this point in the season. He only logged two catches for nine yards, but one of them was for a TD where he cut fast to the inside, faked out the defender, and made a nice break for the score. It was a good timing route and he sold the fake very well. His second catch was a simple sit-down route for seven yards where Thornton needed to quickly assess the zone coverage, find the hole in it, and turn around quickly. He made a nice read and did everything right. Still a long way to go, but that he was out of the game so quickly speaks to him being a factor this year.
- Speaking of factors, good to see Malcolm Butler finally generate a turnover for the Patriots. I wish he’d done that during his first stint with the team.
- I know people are complimenting his improvement throughout the course of the game, and rightly so... but overall, not the best debut from Bailey Zappe. Inaccurate, misreading protection schemes, almost took a safety, throwing behind guys, seemed to focus on his first reads. Nothing to panic over at all, more or less expected from a rookie, and I’m excited to see him do better next week.
- If you’re a Giants fan, you have to be happy with what you saw from running back Gary Brightwell. He was sidelined all last year with a neck injury, but I can see him making an impact spelling Barkley as a tough, between the tackles runner who also has special teams value.
- Josh Uche seemed to over-pursue Taylor and couldn’t catch him on the scramble. Given his upside and athleticism and the growing trend towards shifty, mobile QBs that can extend the play with their legs, I’d really like to see him do a better job on the initial line rush.
- My defensive standout for the game is hands down Sam Roberts. Showed nice versatility, got a lot of pressure up the middle, drew some holding penalties. The sixth round really has been kind to the Patriots.
- If there’s anything that can define the fourth quarter of a preseason game, it’s “attrition.” If you turned this one off at halftime, congratulations on having normal, healthy priorities.
- But to those of you who watched all of this game rather than finding better things to do with a gorgeous summer evening, you got the privilege of seeing Jake Julien punting.
- For the record, there’s absolutely nothing spectacular about that. I just like the name Jake Julien. It sounds like the name of a character in a spectacularly failed superhero pitch at Marvel or DC or whatever. Mild-mannered Jake Julien is a boring accountant by day, but after a freak adding machine accident one night, he becomes Calcu-lor! Capable of understanding the math behind every threat in order minimize its damage!
- That’s all I really have for you today; these games are fun to watch, but they just make you that much hungrier for real football. Overall, I think it was a good start, and the offense wasn’t a train wreck. And nobody got hurt, which is all that really matters.
- But of course, Preseason Fan Notes wouldn’t really be Preseason Fan Notes if I didn’t say at least one patently absurd thing that, while I genuinely believe it, is still ridiculous. It’s become something of a tradition around these parts. So here it is:
- I was more impressed with rookie Tyquan Thornton in limited action in a meaningless game in Week 1 of the preseason than I was with anything N’Keal Harry did at any point during his entire tenure with the Patriots.
- And in case you aren’t aware, Harry is already out eight weeks following ankle surgery. So long.
Time for a week of joint practices and a Friday night matchup with Carolina. Maybe Baker Mayfield will finally be able to register a win over the Patriots.