The Patriots’ 2015 preseason is over. It’s on to the regular season.
It was a sloppy finish to the preseason for the Patriots, who lost 12-9 to the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. But hey, what would you expect in the fourth preseason game? After all, this contest is usually reserved for backups and fringe players who are trying to make their final case for playing time or roster spots.
With less than 48 hours standing between the Patriots and their cutdown to the initial 53-man roster, this was the time for those players to shine. Some seized the opportunity, others may have played their way out of New England.
Here are five key takeaways from the game.
1. Reggie Wayne Can Get Open: The Patriots may not rely much on Reggie Wayne, but the 36-year-old wide receiver proved he can still do the two things head coach Bill Belichick says every receiver must do: get open and catch the ball.
Of course, he can only do the latter if the ball is, well, catchable. In the first quarter alone, there were four passes intended for Wayne that fell incomplete despite the receiver being wide open. He finished with two receptions for 24 yards, including a very impressive 18-yard over-the-shoulder catch down the sideline on a fade route. It’s hardly a dominant stat line, but that’s the downside of playing with quarterback Ryan Lindley in the fourth game of the preseason.
2. Patriots Depth Chart at Cornerback Coming Into Focus: We know Malcolm Butler will be starting at one cornerback spot for the Patriots this season. We may think we know what else is going on at cornerback, but to borrow from MTV’s Diary, we have no idea.
The Patriots have a logjam of youngsters and veterans vying for roster spots. That battle continued on Thursday night, with several backups getting chances to make an impression. Logan Ryan, Daxton Swanson and Robert McClain were the starting cornerbacks on the field, which could mean that those three are competing for placement on the depth chart.
One important note on the depth chart at cornerback was who didn’t play: Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown. Brown is considered the front-runner for the starting spot opposite Butler, so his absence was not a surprise. On the other hand, Fletcher was thought to be on the bubble. Was his absence a good sign for his job security? If he were in danger of being cut, he may have had an opportunity to prove himself one last time.
3. Patriots Want a Longer Look at James White: The fourth preseason game is usually a last chance for fringe players to make their push for the roster. That might be the case for second-year running back James White, who has been one of many battling for playing time on third downs.
With seven carries for 26 yards (3.7 yards per carry) in the first half, White was clearly one of the players the Patriots wanted to get more tape on. He had a few great cuts on a nine-yard carry at the end of the first half, and had a long carry of 11 yards.
In the first three preseason games, White had 17 carries for 35 yards (2.1 yards per carry) to go with five receptions for 72 yards. As a receiving back, he has shown some value. As a pure runner, though, there is some work to do.
4. First and Last Look at Jalen Saunders?: The Patriots traded a conditional pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for wide receiver Jalen Saunders. But the result of that deal may have been nothing more than a tryout.
Saunders caught one pass for two yards in the first half, and tallied three catches for 16 yards total. He finished the game with five punt returns for 25 yards. His first four punt returns went a total of nine yards before he returned a punt 16 yards with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Not a very impressive performance for the second-year wide-out.
The wide receiver position is one of the deepest on the roster, with Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Reggie Wayne and Matthew Slater competing for targets. There just isn’t enough room to fit another receiver on the roster.
5. The Ryan Lindley Era Will Probably Come to a Swift End: With Tom Brady’s four-game suspension vacated, the Patriots have no reason to carry three quarterbacks on their roster.
Ryan Lindley’s job status became less secure with each incomplete pass he threw on Thursday night. In the first half alone, Lindley was 10-of-24 passing (41.7 percent) for 121 yards (5 YPA) and a passser rating of 57.8. He finished the game 22-of-45 passing (48.9 percent) for 253 yards (5.6 YPA), an interception and a passer rating of 57.
Those numbers are right in line with Lindley’s career stats: 50.8 percent completions, 5 YPA, 50.3 passer rating.
He had two kinds of passes on Thursday night: those that were on a dime and those that were way off target.
This was his first game action in a Patriots uniform, and it will likely also be his last.