August 30, 2012
Final Cuts All That Is Left For Patriots
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They still cannot find those three extra points to beat the New York Giants.
It being the final preseason game, that and a quarter buys you a cup of coffee. Fortunately, the Patriots were able to work on several separate items on the agenda, and winning the game wasn't one of them. It was quite clear that Bill Belichick had several players he was looking at, for the purpose of either looking to cut them or showcasing them to other teams. The fact that the Giants turned a late strip sack into a 6-3 win at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday night during a tight defensive struggle all game long is inconsequential, unless Brian Hoyer's confidence is completely shattered if he does have to take over for Tom Brady this season.
Friday evening is the deadline for all NFL teams to cut down to 53 players. Here are some players who seemed to be showcased, and how they fared.
Brandon Bolden was featured prominently in the second quarter. He finished with 59 yards on 15 carries, and a 3.9 yards per carry average. Against mostly a second defensive unit for the Giants, Bolden didn't show any flashes of brilliance and looked mostly ordinary.
Jeff Demps, on the other hand, had 126 all-purpose yards, including three catches for 31 yards. He nearly broke off a long touchdown run on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, but slipped and fell after making a cut. He also returned four punts for 49 yards. He suffered a leg injury late in the fourth quarter, either a knee or an ankle, and left the game with his immediate future not known.
Decision: Keep Demps, send Bolden packing. Halfback seems set with Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead. Even if Demps is too hurt to play, Bolden doesn't seem like a serviceable back worth keeping at this time. If Demps is healthy, he is great depth at back and a great return threat.
Nate Ebner, the seventh round draft pick out of Ohio State, continues to look intriguing out there. He took lots of reps Wednesday night in place of the injured Patrick Chung. He was compared on the NFL Network broadcast to Stephen Neal in that he comes into the league with experience in other sports (rugby 7's) other than football. Ebner seems like a good bet to stick on special teams, and could perhaps work well in nickel and dime packages if Chung is healthy to start and Ebner doesn't need to start in his place and accelerate his learning curve.
Jeff Tarpinian had a particularly good game. He was in on a lot of plays in the second half, finishing with six tackles and some key stops. Mike Rivera led the team with eleven tackles. But Tarpinian had some nice plays in the open field which seem to look better on film and tape. Like Ebner, maybe a special teams spot awaits this guy.
Sterling Moore might need to get gone. Despite his experience from last year, he still gets burned quite often and isn't anywhere near a lockdown cover guy. The critical drop by Lee Evans in the AFC Championship Game was more about Evans choking than it was a great play by Moore, as Evans beat Moore on the play and should have held on to the ball. Tavon Wilson should stick at the free safety position, along with newcomer Steve Gregory.
Darrion Weems got some looks in the second half at tackle. Weems won't be long for this team come Friday.
Jermaine Cunningham will make this team. But he will be under great scrutiny this year as to how effective a pass rusher he will be. He may have to pick up the slack from the departed Mark Anderson and take some of the pass rush burden off of rookie Chandler Jones. Cunningham showed flashes of brilliance in this preseason, but his motor will need to run like a Lamborghini once things get real next Sunday.
Trevor Scott made some plays during the preseason which will make the coaches sit down and think things over. He is perhaps in the bubble category, not spectacular, but not someone you want to let go on Friday. Depth at the defensive line is never a bad thing.
Finally, who really won the backup quarterback battle between Hoyer and Ryan Mallett? In Wednesday night's strange punting duel, Eli Manning, Mallett and Hoyer all had quarterback ratings under 60. Only David Carr had a decent rating (84.5). Mallett and Hoyer both attempted 15 passes. Mallett's total passing yards were 40, Hoyer 96. But Hoyer threw a wild pick during the final seconds of the game, sealing the outcome.
Overall, Hoyer still looks like number two and Mallett three. Mallett had stretches of some good throws here and there, but still looks like he doesn't know the playbook like he should and sometimes looks uncomfortable out there. The offensive line made all Patriot quarterbacks look uncomfortable all during the month of August. But better judgment says that Hoyer remain the number two man behind Brady, in that he could be another Matt Cassel and lead the team to 10+ wins if he had to. Hoyer may bolt at season's end; perhaps next year, Mallett will be ready to move into the second spot behind Brady.
The Patriots will cut down to 53 by Friday, then gun up for their season opener against the Tennessee Titans. This will go down as one of those preseasons which won't leave the fan base salivating for opening kickoff next Sunday unless they spend the whole time fixated on the new look Red Sox. None of the games were particularly exciting or telling, and only a few players who make the team might qualify as "surprising".
The last time the Patriots opened the season as conference champs, Brady was knocked out of the season early in Week 1. Unless Bernard Pollard lands with the Titans in the next few days, that won't be a problem. The Patriots will finally show everyone what they can do, and then you can start thinking about what you may be doing in February.
Meanwhile, Manning beat the Patriots again. Grrrr.
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