My last article I listed my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Giants”. After the game I like to go back and look at those reasons, and find out what we learned about watching the game.

Before I do that, I want mention that the final score in a final pre-season game really means nothing. The Giants came back with 2 touchdowns in the second half to beat the Patriots 18-17, but considering who was in the game at that point, it’s tough to put much stock into the final outcome in terms of what it means for the guys who will actually be around after today.

However, this game had some surprises that happened in the first half. Most of the Patriots starters did see significant action including Tom Brady. The most notable surprise had to be that both Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis played, and had a significant amount of snaps on the defensive line. It was definitely a chance for both starting units to get one last chance to play before the regular season begins on Monday Night September 12th in Miami.

On offense, the Patriots were moving the ball against the Giants, but it was against the Giants second stringers. Brady was average for his standards as he was 5-9 for 116 yards. He did have a few missed throws, but I am certainly not going to read too much into his performance in a 4th pre-season game. I think the offense got what they wanted as they knocked some rust off, and ran some plays.

On defense, as mentioned prior, we got to see our first look at 2 players that could make significant contributions this season in Haynesworth and Ellis. Haynesworth took 16 snaps, and certainly looked like he is still working himself into a shape. However, there were plays where he did demonstrate his ability. On his first snap he actually pushed the pocket back right into David Carr.

Shaun Ellis had a sack, and also showed a glimpse of what he can bring to the table for the Patriots defense. The Patriots did cause 2 turnovers in the first half including a nice interception by Devin McCourty.

Overall, I think this was just an opportunity for the starters to play, and get their timing down. I personally don’t feel you can take much out of this performance in a positive or negative way from the Patriots units. I just look at it as preparation for the start of the season.

While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and compare what ultimately happened in these areas after the game is over.

Below is my analysis of my “Five Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Giants”.

1. How will Ras-I Dowling look in his first game at cornerback? I thought Dowling played pretty well in his first game with Patriots. As a taller cornerback, he definitely gives a different presence out there at his position. He certainly didn’t look out of place in the defensive backfield, and looked like he has decent cover skills. I think this was a good first step.

2. Will we see progress from rookie running backs Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen? Vereen’s performance was inconsistent. He did have a 14 yard run, but then he had a penalty for a chop block. I will chock up this effort to just getting his feet wet. The burst is there, but I think he needs more reps before we can judge what he can really offer.

Ridley did not play in this game. He actually has not been in action since the second pre-season game.

3. Will Ryan Mallett show improvement in this game? I don’t think Mallett played well at all. He was holding on to the ball way too long, and was taking sacks. His throws seemed to be off target as well at times. He definitely needs to improve on being quicker in his decision making.

Overall he was 6-16 for 57 yards, and just not impressive. Since the first pre-season game, he certainly has looked like a rookie. Unfortunately he has not improved much, but hopefully this will be a good season for him to learn the offense.

Wide receiver Brandon Tate appears to be on the bubble as the team gets set to make their final roster moves today. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

4. The battle continues at the 4th wide receiver position. Julian Edelman and Taylor Price did not play. Brandon Tate did see action, and did not have a reception. He could be on his say out of Foxboro.

In fact, Matthew Slater got more reps in the first half than Tate, and had a nice catch that went for 64 yards. He might have beaten Tate out for the last wide receiver position.

5. The Defensive Lineman have their last chance to make an impression. I have already mentioned Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth. I was not expecting them to play so I was planning on watching Mark Anderson and Gerard Warren.

Anderson did not play last night which I find curious. Warren did play and had 3 tackles. He has been solid this pre-season, and last night he again did his job.

The Patriots have some serious decisions to make on the defensive line. They do have a good amount of talent at this position. It will be interesting to see which defensive lineman get cut on Saturday.

In concluding, this game was tough to watch at times. It turned out to be a typical 4th pre-season game as it was just to run some plays, evaluate your players, and get your timing down.

Well, now that the pre-season is over as a whole I am excited to see what the 2011 Patriots will bring. Overall, I have seen enough to feel confident that the Patriots once again will be one of the elite teams in the NFL. It all begins Monday September 12th, at 7:00 PM EST at Miami.