With Week 1 of the preseason in the books, it’s time for everyone who doesn’t have anything better to do — aka me — to shuffle their depth charts around and completely overreact based on 60 meaningless minutes of football.
Of all the New England Patriots rookies we saw take the field last night versus the New York Giants, five in particular stood out for me, and not all of them in a good way. A few made a strong case for not only making the roster, but having a real impact in 2022. Others made the case that they’re not quite ready for the big time just yet.
And while of course a lot can change over the coming weeks, you only get one first impression, and here is mine.
WR Tyquan Thornton. Though the rookie saw limited action, on the field for only a third of the offensive snaps, he showed a good command of the offense, drew a big penalty, caught a touchdown, and put his speed on display. Thornton laid the groundwork in Week 1 to see some quality reps with the first team offense next week and should continue to make some noise as the preseason goes on. Hopefully he can build on a strong initial outing.
QB Bailey Zappe. I know he looked better as the game wore on, but I still think that Zappe had a rough night overall. His stat line isn’t terrible — 19-for-32 for 205 yards, a touchdown, and a pick — but he looked inaccurate, rushed, and too quick to release, especially early in this contest. His deep pass seemed to die in mid-air, he zeroed in on Kristian Wilkerson, and there were more than a few lame duck passes that went out of bounds rather than into the hands of an open receiver.
The good news is that Zappe is a rookie with no starting expectations on him whatsoever, and the improvement between his first rep and his last was already significant, so there’s no need for panic. But in terms of a hot start, he came up short. Hopefully he can use last night’s game as a learning experience and do much better in his next outing from the jump.
DT Sam Roberts. Roberts may have been the most consistent defensive lineman in last night’s game. He registered six tackles, two solo, was disruptive in the backfield, and drew a holding penalty. He showed an ability to generate pressure from both the 3- and 5-technique. He over-pursued a few times, but had a great night overall and could soon find himself as the third DE in 3-4 fronts.
Sam Roberts (Rob-hurts) showed great power and leverage last night to knock back the Giants IOL as a rusher.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 12, 2022
Also flashed quick hands and some nifty moves pic.twitter.com/6er47OmmPn
RB Kevin Harris. I may be being a bit harsh singling Harris out like this, but I had fairly high hopes for the rookie coming into this season and was fairly unimpressed with the reps he got. He only picked up six yards on nine carries, primarily against backup linemen (although to be fair he was also running behind backup linemen), he couldn’t convert on some short yardage runs, struggled to generate yards after contact, and also missed a few blitz pickups and misread his cutback lanes.
He was able to plow through the line for a touchdown, which was nice to see, but in an already crowded backfield, Harris didn’t do a whole lot to distinguish himself as a unique talent. He’s got the tools and the size, but 2022 might be a redshirt year for him. I can see a case of the Foxborough Flu coming his way before too long.
G Cole Strange. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Strange’s performance last night, which is the highest compliment I can give an offensive lineman. He drew no penalties, wasn’t responsible for any negative plays, and stayed completely silent on the day. That’s exactly what you want to see out of any offensive lineman, particularly a rookie. There’s no job in the NFL more thankless than guard, but Strange is off to a solid start.