New England may have come away with their first preseason loss of 2017, but Thursday night certainly wasn’t about the final outcome.
As most fans in New England know, preseason games are less about the score and more about the individual performances of the players. With Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore and a host of other starters getting the night off, it was an opportunity for players further down the depth chart to make some noise and here’s a quick rundown of the names who stood out during the game.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Garoppolo had a solid outing Thursday night, misfiring on just six passes after finishing 22-of-28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
One of his most impressive drives came in the waning minutes of the first half when the Patriots went to the two-minute offense and Garoppolo went 7-of-7, finishing the drive with a great throw that saw receiver Austin Carr go up and make an even better catch for the 3-yard touchdown. While he might have gotten off to a slow start, Garoppolo finished strong, hitting his final 14 straight passes before he left the game in favor of Jacoby Brissett.
Derek Rivers – Rivers shined on several plays, with one of his more memorable moments coming on Jacksonville’s second offensive series. He did a great job as he got pressure from the outside and forced an errant throw by Blake Bortles on third down with the Jaguars knocking on the door at New England’s 9-yard line. It ended up being an important play, as it forced Jacksonville to settle for a field goal.
Sam Cotton – He had a scary moment early in the contest after he jogged off the field and appeared to have an apparent arm injury on special teams following a long punt return by Jacksonville in the first quarter. Fortunately he came back and finished the game, including making a nice block on D.J. Foster’s 4th Quarter touchdown run that pulled the Patriots back within 7 at 31-24.
Brandon Bolden – The special teams standout and back-up running back had a productive night, finishing with some nice runs on New England’s second offensive series, including one for 24-yards that helped get the Patriots into Jaguars territory and eventually lead to a 43-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
Overall Bolden finished with 5 carries for 33-yards (6.6 avg), as well as two receptions for 24-yards out of the backfield.
It’s too early to panic, but Gostkowski hasn’t quite settled back in yet after a tough 2016. (USA TODAY Images)
Stephen Gostkowski – Speaking of Gostkowski, Thursday night was probably not the performance the veteran kicker was looking for. He hit a 43-yard field goal early in the contest that he struck well and looked good, but then later missed a 56-yard field goal wide left, pushing it just to the left of the upright with time winding down in the second-quarter. The latter kick is only a little more concerning because he didn’t hit it well. It’s one thing to hit it solid and have it sail just off target. It’s another to mis-hit it the way he did, which for a player who is trying to bounce back from an off year, it’s obviously not what he was probably hoping for.
It’s still early and you never want to be too concerned about the preseason, but hopefully Gostkowski hits his stride sooner rather than later. Right now he looks more like a player trying not to miss than the laser-sharp person he was before all of this started, and he seems like he still needs to get his confidence back.
Deatrich Wise – Wise had a scary moment early in the game after he went down with an injury minutes into the second quarter. Replays showed that he may have taken a knee to his helmet, which after the play saw him flat on his back on the field before he eventually got up and walked off under his own power and headed to the locker room.
Cyrus Jones – It was a split night for Jones, who had a relatively decent evening returning the football but had a frustrating night on defense. The second-year defensive back got burned for a 97-yard touchdown by Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole, who got behind him after a perfect pass by Chad Henne for the score.
Jacksonville targeted him again for another big play, with Rashad Green Sr. getting behind him but rookie safety Jason Thompson got there late, ultimately committing a 44-yard pass interference penalty. That miscue helped set up the Jaguars second touchdown of the contest, which came on a 1-yard Jacksonville touchdown by rookie RB Leonard Fournette.
They attacked Jones again in the third quarter and, once again, he didn’t get any safety help, giving up a 79 yard touchdown. The final one may not have been as much Jones’ fault as it was the safety’s, but overall it was a rough night on the defensive side of the football for the second-year player.
Dion Lewis – Lewis had some nice runs and looks stronger than he did than at this point in 2016. However, it wasn’t perfect. He had a key drop on a 2nd-and-7 in the second quarter that factored into their drive stalling prior to Gostkowski’s missed 56-yard field goal. But overall, Lewis finished with 7 carries for 32 yards (4.6 avg) running the ball and 4 receptions for 23-yards (5.8 avg) out of the backfield.
Austin Carr – Carr had one of the highlights of the night after he made a tremendous leaping touchdown grab from Jimmy Garoppolo in the final seconds of the first half for the Patriots first touchdown of the game. He also made another key reception on that same drive that helped set up his scoring play and overall had a solid evening, finishing with 5 receptions for 44-yards and his touchdown. He’s had a terrific camp, and if he keeps this up, he’s going to leave New England having to make a difficult decision as he may prove to be too valuable to let go of.
K.J. Maye – Maye had a solid night, including scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half where he caught a quick pass from Garoppolo and sliced his way into the end zone. Overall he finished second on the the team in receptions, hauling in 6 catches for 34-yards, along with his touchdown.
Hollister had a terrific showing Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)
Jacob Hollister – If there were MVPs given out for preseason performances, Hollister would certainly be the one earning that honor after Thursday night’s game. Hollister had several highlight moments, including a nice leaping grab in the second quarter which saw him take a shot after making the catch, but held onto the football. He also made another clutch reception during the Patriots scoring drive, where he held onto the ball again and took a shot to the helmet that saw him lose it. That play helped set up Carr’s touchdown.
He also had a terrific play at the end of the third quarter where he caught a pass and hurdled the defender for a first down. Overall, Hollister finished as the team’s leading receiver, catching 7 passes on 9 targets for 116-yards on the night.
Jordan Richards – Richards made a key mistake after New England knotted the score at 17-17 where he had an opportunity to stop Corey Grant on a run but took a bad angle and gave up another long touchdown, with Grant taking off for the races and scoring a 79-yard touchdown. It wasn’t exactly the best start for Richards, who will likely catch some grief in the film room over that one.
LeShun Daniels – Daniels had a nice night carrying the football and showed some explosiveness, including one play where he hurdled a defender and picked up a first down. He finished the night as the team’s leading rusher, gaining 39-yards on 11 carries (3.5 avg).
Elandon Roberts – Roberts played relatively well but suffered an injury late in the third quarter following a tackle and gingerly walked off the field with trainers under his own power.
Foster had a red zone turnover Thursday night that will overshadow an otherwise decent performance. (USA TODAY Images)
D.J. Foster – Foster had an uneven night. He had a couple of receptions and looked healthy and ran well with the football in his hands. However, he had a key fumble down in the red zone after Garoppolo got them down to the Jacksonville 18-yard line. Following a nice catch and cut up the middle, Foster took a big hit on the ball by Jacksonville’s Tracy Howard and lost it, with the Jaguars recovering. Foster did come back and had a couple of good runs later in the game, including one where he accelerated to the outside on a fourth down play for the touchdown that at the time cut the lead to 31-24.
DJ Killings – Killings made a key third down stop in the fourth quarter where he came up and made the tackle on a 3rd-and-short to force a Jacksonville field goal. The funny thing about Killings was watching him pump his fist in Lawyer Milloy-esque fashion after the play. It was an important tackle at the time as the Jaguars would go on to miss the field goal, keeping the score within 7 at 31-24.
Jacoby Brissett – He didn’t have a bad night, but he made a couple of key mental mistakes. The first came with a chance to tie the game on a 4th-and-5 with 4:56 to go in the contest after he threw the ball high and out of the back of the end zone. It was a bad throw and never gave his receiver any chance to the to make a play. Instead, the Patriots turned the ball back over on downs to the Jaguars with just over 4-minutes to go in the contest.
Unfortunately, he did it again on the final play of the game where he threw it too high again after he scrambled around the pocket, ending any shot at a game-tying touchdown.
Brissett did make several nice throws and had some good moments, but those mental miscues are ones that he’ll need to continue working on as should he ever find him on the field taking any meaningful snaps, those are mistakes he can’t afford to make.
All in all, it was a good night of football and a pretty solid evening of work. The Patriots were otherwise fairly disciplined, finished the night committing just 3 penalties, which is impressive given the fact that so many starters sat this one out. Granted the long touchdowns will be the focus of this week and need to be eliminated, but those likely wouldn’t have happened with their starters in the line-up.
For now, they’ll turn the page toward Houston, whom they’ll play next Saturday night at 8:00pm.