The Patriots struggled last night as they lost to the Green Bay Packers, 22-11. The Packers were very aggressive as they went for fourth down on a regular basis and took it to New England in the run game. Tom Brady played two series but with basically all backups, so it's tough to gauge his performance. Let's take a look at the studs and duds from last night's preseason opener in Foxboro.
Chandler Jones- Jones only played in the first quarter, but he made his presence known from the first play as he made an impressive sack on All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jones could be in-line for his best season to date because he may face less double teams; the Patriots front seven looks loaded and it will help Jones.
James White- White was one of the few offensive weapons that stepped up and made plays last night, making four catches for 52 yards. He had a great run-after-catch on a screen play and he also made a nice run after catching a dump-off pass from Jimmy Garoppolo. White still struggles to stay up after first contact in the running game, but if he can give Tom Brady what he had with Vereen catching out of the backfield, it will be huge for the offense. White got hurt on a low tackle, but he returned to the game and looked fine.
Trey Flowers- The rookie defensive end out of Arkansas also left last night's game with an injury, but he didn't return. Before he went down, he showed that he'll provide strong depth for the pass rush and he may end up getting a good amount of reps in 2015.
Jonas Gray- Gray looked like he might be on the bubble when training camp opened, but with Tyler Gaffney going on IR and LeGarrette Blount being held out, he has a strong chance to make the team again. Last night's performance (seven carries, 74 yards, one touchdown) didn't hurt as Gray ran with excellent balance, used his blockers well, and capped it off with breaking a 55 yard touchdown run, a run that showed he has the acceleration to take it the distance.
Tre' Jackson- Jackson was one of the few highlights on the offensive line. He wasn't dominating and didn't make a eye-opening block like Shaq Mason did on the Gray run, but he did his job on every play and appears to be yet another late-round find at offensive line for New England.
Brandon Gibson- Gibson didn't put up eye-opening numbers, making four catches for 29 yards, but all his catches helped to either extend a drive or pick up good yardage on early downs. He looks like a keeper, assuming they can find a way to fit him on this very deep roster.
Malcolm Butler- Butler looks like the best corner New England has, and he's playing like he might become one of the best in the league. Butler has great length, strength, athleticism, and he plays smart; what a find by the Patriots scouting department, kudos to them. Butler will be the starting left corner on opening night.
Jonathan Freeny- There is two backup linebacker spots up for grabs and Freeny did a good job of making his case to land one of them. He finished the night with seven solo tackles, two assisted tackles, and two tackles for loss. Freeny is also a good special teams player and if he keeps showing up in this preseason, he's going to force his way onto the 53-man.
Jimmy Garoppolo- Some thought Garoppolo played well, but they must have been watching a different game because regardless of hitting ten passes in a row, he was bad. He finished the night 20-30, 159 yards, one interception, SEVEN times sacked, and he posted a 65.8 passer rating. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but playing like that isn't going to get the job done. There could have been at least three other interceptions on awful throws, and that will be discussed in the meeting room. He was OK rolling out, but he was a nightmare in the pocket.
Josh Boyce- Two catches on 11 targets. Let me repeat that- TWO CATCHES ON 11 TARGETS!! That is just unacceptable for an NFL receiver. Boyce is on the bubble just like last year, but if he doesn't get it together in games, he's not going to be around much longer.
Logan Ryan- Some think that Ryan will start opposite Malcolm Butler, but last night he looked like a backup. Ryan got beat deep on a play he never should have been burnt on and he needs to start playing with more awareness. He did have two tackles and one pass defended, but the touchdown was bad.
The entire o-line in the fourth quarter- Jimmy Garoppolo saw a jailbreak every time he stepped back to pass in the fourth quarter, and although he did hold the ball too long at times, there isn't much he can do when he snaps the ball and is sacked within two seconds. Those who will make the team from that group need to clean up their mistakes before the season begins.
Obviously it's very early and the first preseason game is not that big a deal, but the Patriots injury issues are, and if they don't get healthy before the start of the season, they could have a rough start like they did in 2014.
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