By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Stunningly, the Patriots gave us plenty to watch on Thursday night. The fourth preseason game featured three formerly injured receivers who might be the projected starters, as Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas all played on the Pats’ first possession.
Obviously, most of the game didn’t matter for the 53-man roster. But there were things to pull from the preseason finale, more so than usual. Mainly because of the receivers.
So here’s just a buncha notes from a game that the Giants won 31-29 with a touchdown on the last play of the game.
— If the Patriots have a clean bill of health in Week 1 against the Steelers, it looks like their starters in three-receiver sets would be Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas. All three played and made catches on the first series of the game. Edelman appeared to tweak his previously injured thumb after he made a 20-yard catch, but eventually appeared to shake it off.
— Gordon and Thomas stayed in the game after Edelman left, but Thomas’ night hit a low point after an ugly turnover. Attempting a jet sweep, Thomas tried to take the handoff with his hands away from his body instead of receiving it into his bread basket. It did not go well.
— Thomas, however, redeemed himself later on when he caught a 35-yard touchdown from Jarrett Stidham on a back-shoulder throw and another touchdown later in the second quarter. Thomas may not be the explosive All-Pro-caliber wideout he once was, but he can still use his size and hands to win the ball 1-on-1. He could come out of nowhere as a dangerous complementary target for Tom Brady.
— Gordon caught Stidham’s first completion of the game, reeling it in then breaking a tackle to burst down the sideline for a 19-yard catch-and-run.
— Rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams started on defense – at safety. He’s a lock to make the roster either way, but it’s interesting that the Patriots wanted to get the 6-foot-4 Williams some looks as a safety. He covered Giants TE Scott Simonson over the middle on a few plays.
— DT David Parry was literally in the middle of things when he led the Patriots on a fourth-and-1 run-stuff to turn the ball over. He still seems to be a long shot to make the 53-man roster, but if the team wants a direct backup for DT Danny Shelton, Parry might be the guy.
— Rookie OL Hjalte Froholdt left the game early after appearing to injure his arm or shoulder. He was in a sling before the game. He could be a candidate to be redshirted on IR for his rookie season. His absence would open the door for James Ferentz to be Ted Karras’ backup at center.
— Cornerbacks Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen played most of the game, which could be a sign that they’re battling for a lone roster spot. The Pats are crowded at the position, as Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams, and Jonathan Jones all appear locked in. Dawson is a bigger, more physical player than the smaller, faster Crossen. But the latter outperformed the former as a rookie and has contributed on special teams. It will be interesting to see what Bill Belichick does here.
— Crossen recovered from a bad start to the game, allowing a 35-yard touchdown to Giants WR Alonzo Russell at one point. He led the defense with 11 tackles and made an interception to go with five pass breakups. Dawson also had an interception, but it came off a lucky bounce and it was one play after he committed an illegal contact penalty.
— After a shaky third preseason game for holder Jake Bailey and a bad three games for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots’ field goal unit looked on point against the Giants, Gostkowski was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and 2-for-2 on extra points. Perhaps more importantly, Bailey kept those laces out on the hold. It appears that Belichick and special teams coordinator Joe Judge have put the fear of god into this group. Now they look ready for the season.
Final roster projections coming Friday.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.