Stock Watch: These five Patriots are ending preseason on high note
|08.25.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
With the preseason set to come to an end Wednesday when the Patriots travel to New Jersey to meet the Giants, here’s a look at five players whose stock appears to be rising.
Defensive back Marquice Cole: The cornerback had himself a very good night on Friday against the Bucs. Working in the slot, he had two passes defensed, almost getting his hands on a pair of attempts. He finished the night tied for the team lead in tackles with five, and continues to show excellent value as a special teamer — he worked in kick and punt coverage, and added a special teams’ tackle to his total. In fact, it’s his special teams value that likely gives him an edge on some other corners who might also be fighting for a roster spot at this point.
Quote: ‘I think he did a number of good things, as he has the whole training camp; made plays in the kicking game, made plays on defense.’ — Bill Belichick on Cole’s performance Friday against Tampa Bay.
Running back/returner Jeff Demps: It wasn’t much of a start — he was called for a false start in his first snap at running back — but it’s clear that Demps can use his speed to cover up for his drawbacks while he adjusts to life in the NFL. On his 29-yard run, he blew through the middle of the New England offensive line and made a Tampa defender whiff badly as he almost made it to the end zone. In the end, Demps had three carries for 41 yards in his pro debut. He also returned two kickoffs for 44 yards and one punt for 16 yards.
Quote: ‘You know, he got quite a bit of an opportunity tonight. Coach put him in a position to make some plays out there both in the return game and at running back. It was pretty amazing to go from what he was training for for the last six or eight months of his life, and to come in here and put pads on and do the same thing. So it’s really a credit to his hard work and his mental toughness.’ — Tom Brady on the performance against Demps against Tampa Bay.
Defensive back Nate Ebner: The rookie out of Ohio State got some good reps with the starters on Friday against Tampa, as he was utilized frequently on third-down defensive packages and other passing situations. Like Cole, he’s a new defensive back who has flashed positively in limited reps on defense as well as special teams. He’s shown a knack for being around the ball (he had two picks in the last week of camp, as well as one last Monday against the Eagles), and if he continues trending positively throughout the next two weeks, the sixth-round pick out of Ohio State will almost certainly land on the final 53-man roster.
Quote: ‘[He] didn’t really have a lot of experience just defensively at Ohio State but [he’s a] smart kid [and] understood what they were doing real well defensively. I think he’s learning. I think it’s a process for him. But he has good size, he’s smart, he can run. I think there are just some things he’s going to have to learn technique-wise and just seeing things, whether it’s formation, empty, just the multiplicity that goes into defense in general but that specific safety position, because there’s so much communication that’s involved in that spot.’ — Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio on Ebner and his development as a defensive back.
Quarterback Ryan Mallett: The quarterback, entering his second season in New England, has displayed good improvement over the last two weeks, and as we wrote here, was one of the two offensive bright spots for the Patriots against the Buccaneers, putting together a pair of late scoring drives and making some very good throws along the way against Tampa’s second- and third-team defense. In three games this preseason, Mallett is 25-for-52 for 260 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. The completion percentage isn’t quite where you want it to be, but he’s done well with the opportunities he’s been given to this point.
Quote: ‘I thought he did a good job with the opportunities he had. That was a good throw he made on fourth and one on the comeback. He made some other good throws on the last two drives. I mean the game was out of hand at that point, but he did what he could do when he had the opportunity for it.’ — Belichick on the work of Mallett against Tampa.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski: Not that he’s in any danger of not making the roster, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that through camp and into the preseason, the kicker is certainly having himself a good summer. He connected on all four of his extra-point attempts against the Bucs, and while he didn’t get a shot at a field goal against Tampa Bay, he was coming off a night against the Eagles where he connected on all three field-goal attempts, including two from more than 50 yards (51 and 55). The kickoffs need to be squared away, as he only had one touchback in five kickoffs against the Bucs (that could be a product of some poor kick coverage), but for the most part, Gostkowski has done well to this point in the preseason.
Quote: ‘Stephen has had a good year, a real good offseason. [He] came to camp in great shape, has kicked the ball throughout camp and has kicked well throughout camp.’ — Belichick on the play of Gostkowski.