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What we learned: Patriots put wraps on preseason with 16-13 loss to Giants

08.28.14 at 10:38 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

In the preseason finale for both teams, the Giants edged the Patriots 16-13 Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.

Jimmy Garoppolo got the start at quarterback for the Patriots, and went 22-for-42 for 284 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. New England also got three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown from Aaron Dobson, while James White had 61 yards from scrimmage (29 rushing, 32 receiving) and Kenbrell Thompkins had five catches for 46 yards. Defensively, safety Nate Ebner had 11 tackles.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants started their regulars, with quarterback Eli Manning in the game for two series — he went 1-for-4 for zero yards.

The Patriots will open the regular season a week from Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami.

Here are 10 things we learned about the Patriots Thursday night:

There was some potential clarification on the status of some of the veterans who might have been on the bubble.

It’s important to notice who played and who didn’t, because we know that if you pull a DNP-CD in the final preseason game of the summer, you have a good chance of making it through the final round of cuts. Armed with that knowledge, the fact that Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly were some of the regulars who didn’t play speaks well when it comes to them making the roster. Not that there’s been any debate about the rest, but it is worth mentioning that others who did not play included: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Sebastian Vollmer, Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga.

Jimmy Garoppolo looked competitive against a No. 1 defense.

Garoppolo’s first two drives stalled out, as New England failed to cross midfield on both occasions against the New York starters. The third drive ended with a pick by New York’s Zack Bowman on a play where there was a clear miscommunication between the quarterback and wide receiver Josh Boyce. However, he and the rest of the offense broke through with a very nice sequence on New England’s fourth drive, which was topped off by a nice deep ball from the quarterback to Aaron Dobson, a 33-yard pass play on a go route that made it 7-3 early in the second quarter. However, his best work of the night probably came at the end of the half in the sort of situational work that Bill Belichick craves — with 3:31 left in the second quarter, he engineered a series that got New England to the Giants‘ 19-yard line, and ended with a field goal with 18 seconds left. It was a steady, consistent sequence for Garoppolo and the offense, one that ended with them putting points on the board.

Rookies Malcolm Butler and James White appear to have done enough to ensure a roster spot.

Butler got the start again Thursday against the Giants, and again, he was extremely competitive over the course of the evening. From this viewpoint, the rookie out of West Alabama has done enough to earn that last cornerback spot on the roster. His situation might get a little dicey when Brandon Browner returns from his suspension after the first month of the season, but as it stands right now, he’s made it. In addition, while he isn’t exactly a bull between the tackles, James White has displayed enough (both in special teams and on offense) to land a spot on the final 53 as well.

The Patriots best option at strong safety might be a cornerback.

Over the course of the summer, a few Patriots corners appeared to get a lot of work in in modified safety-type of roles. We saw it from Kyle Arrington in practices and previous preseason games — and on Thursday against the Giants, Alfonzo Dennard started and filled the spot, working as a safety/slot cornerback. It was an interesting look, and something worth keeping an eye on during the regular season. It increases positional versatility, and allows the Patriots to offer some different looks.

There are still some questions about the depth chart at wide receiver.

The Patriots gave a lot of different receivers run on Thursday, with Josh Boyce getting a lot of work. The pass catcher out of TCU, considered to be a prime bubble candidate, had some good moments (he hooked up with Garoppolo on a nice slant route early in the first half), but there was also some not-so-good (he appeared to be the one at fault for the Garoppolo pick later in the first half). He played late in the game, and ended with two catches for 26 yards. The receiver who did the most to help himself was second-year man Aaron Dobson — in his first game action of the summer, the Marshall product finished with three receptions for a team-high 57 yards and a touchdown, a really nice scoring strike from Garoppolo.
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First half thoughts: Aaron Dobson debuts with TD, Tom Brady plays (as holder), Tim Wright catches on

08.28.14 at 8:59 pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo stands in the pocket and fires a pass Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. (Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo stands in the pocket and fires a pass Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. (Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Some quick takeaways from the first half between the Patriots and Giants, which ended in a 10-10 tie at MetLife Stadium.

Jimmy Garoppolo started as expected and stuttered a bit at first on the opening two drives. But then he found his rhythm in the second quarter, leading the Patriots on an impressive 82-yard drive, capped by a perfect 33-yard lob down the left sideline to Aaron Dobson, who went high in the air to haul it down. Dobson was making his preseason debut and looked comfortable in his first 30 minutes of play.

While Tom Brady was not expected to play a single down in the game, he did see action, as he was the holder after Dobson’s touchdown. He held without any incident.

Also making a debut Thursday night was tight end Tim Wright. He started the game for the Patriots and was targeted twice in the opening three series. He caught his first pass early in the second quarter, a short nine-yard screen.

Wright then caught a pass of 11 yards that set up Stephen Gostkowski‘s 37-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half, tying the game, 10-10. The snap was high on the field goal but Brady was not the holder for the field goal but rather Ryan Allen, the normal player at the position.

Earlier in the drive, Garoppolo also connected for 29 yards to James White on a wheel play out of the backfield, very similar to the route that Tom Brady and Shane Vereen run so successfully. Then he took a sack on the next play, pushing the Patriots back to the Giants 30.

Garoppolo finished the first 30 minutes completing 11-of-19 for 163 yards and the one touchdown. Garoppolo did have a moment he wishes he could have back, throwing inside on a route that Josh Boyce broke out on. Garoppolo was picked on the play by Zack Bowman at the Patriots 39. It set up a field goal, with some help from a 38-yard run by former Boston College star Andre Williams. Dobson caught two passes on three targets for 51 yards while Tim Wright was also targeted three times, catching two for 20 yards.

As for the starting left guard spot, Josh Kline, as will likely be the case in the season opener, got the call in the first game since the trade of Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. Kline was the only projected offensive line starter on the field to begin the game. Jordan Devey got the call at left tackle, Bryan Stork was the center while Chris Barker was the right guard and Cameron Fleming started at right tackle.

James Morris, the rookie undrafted linebacker out of Iowa, had to be helped off the field late in the second quarter with a right knee injury. His return is questionable. Morris has impressed the Patriots coaching staff in training camp and got the start at middle linebacker on Thursday night.

Brandon Browner was one of the projected starters to play a majority of snaps in the first half, in part because his four-game suspension begins at the start of the regular season. Receiver Brian Tyms is in the same position, as he will miss the first four games (if he makes the squad) due to a PED violation for testing positive for Adderall.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots, New York Giants

Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower among Patriots not dressing

08.28.14 at 7:22 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots are expected to give most of the playing time to second and third-team units Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium.

Several starters dressed but are not expected to play, such as quarterbacks Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell.

There were nine players not spotted in uniform for warmups.

Running back: Brandon Bolden

Linebackers: Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower

Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui

Offensive lineman: Sebastian Vollmer

Defensive linemen: Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga

New tight end Tim Wright did dress and is wearing No. 81. He could see playing time in the preseason finale.

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Giants, Rob Gronkowski,

Logan Mankins speaks fondly of Patriots in introductory Buccaneers press conference

08.28.14 at 5:49 pm ET
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Buccaneers guard Logan Mankins confirmed in his introductory press conference that the Patriots had asked him to restructure his contract before trading him and that the sides “€œcouldn’€™t come to a common ground.”€

Mankins spoke fondly of his time with the Patriots and took no shots at the team, noting that he’€™s spoken to most of his former teammates since being traded.

“I’€™ve talked to Tom [Brady]. I’€™ve talked to probably 99 percent of the team,” Mankins said. “I’€™m not going to get into what we said. … I’€™ll miss Tom for sure, and I’€™ll miss a lot of those guys. I had a lot of good friends, a lot of coaches I was good friends with.”

As for the trade, Mankins said that he wasn’€™t shocked by the move because he’€™s aware of the business side of the league.

“€œOnce you’€™ve been around this business long enough, you know anything’€™s possible,” he said. ‘€œ’€… If you don’€™t understand that it’€™s a business, you’€™re lying to yourself.”

Since the trade, Mankins’€™ dip in performance last season has received plenty of attention. Asked during the press conference whether he thought he was on the decline, the 32-year-old offered a guess that he was.

“I might be in a little decline. I don’€™t know how many play 150 games and are still on the upswing,”€ he said. “I’€™ve played in a lot of games, a lot of snaps, and I still feel I have something to give this game.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Logan Mankins,

Report: NFL proposing massive changes in dealing with cases of domestic violence

08.28.14 at 4:09 pm ET
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In the wake of harsh criticism for the way it handled the Ray Rice incident, the NFL is hoping to implement sweeping changes in how it deals with domestic violence. In a letter to NFL owners, commissioner Roger Goodell is proposing a six-game suspension for a player’s first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense.

The letter from Goodell, which was obtained by ESPN, reads in part:

“In the past few weeks, I have reviewed all aspects of our Personal Conduct Policy and met with a wide range of experts (several of whom we have been working with for some time), as well as with the NFLPA and many of you. Those discussions will continue. They have helped us to identify a number of steps that will better communicate our position and strengthen our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These steps are based on a clear, simple principle: domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy.”

Goodell continues:

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.

“A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay. Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the league; an offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel.”

The announcement brought this response from the NFLPA:

“€œWe were informed today of the NFL’€™s decision to increase penalties on domestic violence offenders under the Personal Conduct Policy for all NFL employees. As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’€™ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’€™ rights.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: roger goodell,

Setting the scene: Patriots wrap up preseason at MetLife against Giants

08.28.14 at 3:53 pm ET
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A sunlit MetLife Stadium awaits the Patriots as they conclude the preseason against the Giants. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

A sunlit MetLife Stadium awaits the Patriots as they conclude the preseason against the Giants. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As it has been the last three days in New England, it will be sunny and warm come kickoff Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium as the Patriots wrap up the preseason in their annual exhibition against the Giants.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. There could be a bit of a breeze to deal with as the forecast also predicts winds out of the northeast at 13 MPH but those could be lessened somewhat by the elevated and closed structure of MetLife Stadium.

As for who will play in this game, the biggest news figures to be the debut of second-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson for the first time since a screw was placed in his left foot during offseason surgery in March.

The Patriots have been steadily giving him more and more reps during practice but this will be his first game action, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. His roster spot is likely not in any jeopardy but he has lost time in the all important battle for reps with receivers Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins, as the Patriots continue to search for downfield targets for Tom Brady.

WEEI.com’s Chris Price notes that it’s usually not a good sign for veterans if they play more than 10-15 snaps but that rule of thumb could be altered somewhat with the trade of Logan Mankins this week, as Bill Belichick and company look to firm up the starting left guard position.

The initial candidates figure to be Josh Kline, Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon.

Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will get the start and, barring injury, will likely play the entire game. The reason for that is twofold. There is no reason to expose Tom Brady to any potential injury and the Patriots would like to protect Ryan Mallett since he could be on the trade market before the regular season, especially since St. Louis lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a torn ACL last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Wright, the tight end acquired in the Logan Mankins trade, could make an appearance with the Patriots on the sidelines but might figure to stay there all night at the Patriots protect him for the regular season and since he is still acquainting himself with a new playbook.

While he won’t play, Brady is still a sidelight to this game, as he reportedly was “very upset” by the trade of his longtime starting left guard on Tuesday. Several players admitted they were stunned by the news when informed by Belichick before Tuesday’s practice.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning is expected to play from 15 to 18 snaps along with his starting unit, as Tom Coughlin doesn’t want his starters sitting for 18 days between their last preseason game last Saturday against the Jets and their season opener Monday, Sept. 8 in Detroit.

Patriots players will have Friday off, and possibly the weekend, before returning to work next week in preparation for the Sept. 7 opener in Miami against the Dolphins. While players have Friday off, the coaches will be hard at work making decisions on final roster cuts. The Patriots, and all 32 NFL teams, must get down to the 53-man limit by 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Kline, Logan Mankins, Tim Wright

Report: Aaron Dobson to make his debut against Giants in preseason finale

08.28.14 at 3:21 pm ET
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Aaron Dobson speaks to reporters  at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Aaron Dobson speaks to reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After a long ramp up to game action, second-year receiver Aaron Dobson will reportedly finally make his preseason debut Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. Dobson appeared in the team’s pre-game warmup about two hours before the game with his cleats wrapped in tape, usually a sign that a player is ready to play in the game.

Dobson missed all of OTAs and minicamp as he was healing his twice-injured left foot, a stress fracture that limited his 2013 rookie season to 12 games. The decision was made in March to place a pin in the foot to help with the healing and stabilize the foot.

Now, according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Dobson has healed enough and made enough progress in practice to finally step on the field for game action after beginning training camp practice on Aug. 11.

Three players have stepped in and made a big impact in his absence. Brian Tyms, Kenbrell Thompkins and free agent Brandon LaFell have all shown big-play capability in the preseason, with Tyms likely winning a roster spot with nine catches heading into the preseason finale.

The Herald reports Dobson made the trip with the team to New Jersey and has been cleared to play.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
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