The next round of cuts is coming for the New England Patriots. The team has to get down to a 53-man roster by Saturday in anticipation of the following Sunday’s opener at Buffalo. With that in mind, here is a look at those players who stood out, good or bad, in Thursday’s 28-20 win over the New York Giants in the preseason finale.
1. Ryan Mallett/Tim Tebow – Without Tom Brady playing a snap, the performances of these two were central. While Mallett’s roster spot is not in question like the holy one behind him, how he plays is worth noting in case a blitzing safety takes out Brady midway through the first quarter in Buffalo.
The third-year University of Arkansas product had some moments (his arm strength is not in question, as exhibited by a handful of throws), but he remains uncertain in other areas. His lack of touch in an attempt on Aaron Dobson in the end zone early in the second resulted in what looked like a bad interception. Even though it was overturned, the lack of execution was notable on Mallett’s part.
Moments later Mallett threw a picture-perfect touchdown pass to Josh Boyce, exhibiting the maddening inconsistency that would become even more maddening if this had been a regular season game and not the back end of a preseason slate.
As for Tebow, what could be his last game in a Patriots uniform also was up and down. There was a 52-yard TD pass to Quentin Sims, followed by an underthrown interception on a deep ball on the following possession. Tebow capped his second-half performance on another connection with Sims in the closing seconds. That made his line look a bit better, but it remains to be seen if there is room for a third quarterback, who was also sacked four times.
Mallett was 10-for-16 for 117 yards. Tebow was 5-for-10 for 82 yards.
2. Leon Washington – The backfield is in solid standing with the Ridleys and Vereens of the world. There is wiggle room beyond them, and Washington would be a nice veteran piece. It was somewhat of a mixed bag as Washington coughed up a fumble, had just one catch and had three rushes for nine yards, but he also contributed some nice punt returns. That has been a big part of Washington’s game over the years and the Pats could always use a boost in that department, which has lacked at times in years past and no longer has Wes Welker to help out in the punt return game.
3. Josh Boyce – Speed kills. It certainly did on the 40-yard TD strike from Mallett to Boyce early in the second quarter. The rookie from Texas Christian put on a nice little double move to get some separation. Boyce also had an end-around that displayed his jets. He figures to offer a nice deep threat, change-of-pace guy for Brady.
4. Adrian Wilson – Much has been made of the veteran safety’s chances of making, or not making, the team. And much was made Thursday of Wilson’s heavy dose of action with second- and third-string players, often a sign that he is on the outside looking in.
5. Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon – The previously injured offensive linemen had been limited during the preseason but got in some solid reps Thursday. Connolly played the first quarter and is good to go at right guard. Cannon lasted into the second and will provide depth to a now-healthy line that may just be the team’s biggest strength.
6. Zoltan Mesko – Fighting to hold off Ryan Allen for the punting job, Mesko had a solid night. He averaged 43.2 yards on five punts, one of which went for 57 yards. Hang time was solid for Mesko, who figures to have the inside track in this specialty race.
7. Jake Bequette/Michael Buchanan – The fight for backup spots along the defensive line had a pair of standouts in Bequette and Buchanan. The former had some solid moments in the first half and Buchanan came on in a big way as the game wore on. He had 1.5 sacks and a strip of Giants quarterback David Carr.
Buchanan may have played his way onto this team with his performance. Bequette’s status may be more up in the air, but he did not hurt his cause.