This past Saturday pitted the New England Patriots against the Houston Texans in their second preseason game. The outcome was similar to that of the Patriots’ first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a final score of 27-23 Texans, the Patriots still have more work to do in order to prepare for the regular season. However, the box score doesn’t reflect the way the team played. A handful of Patriots stood out as they made their debut; some for better and others for worse.
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Rex Burkhead was one of the stars of the backfield during Saturday’s game. Most of Burkhead’s 10 touches came in the first half but he ended the night with a total of 70 yards as well as a touchdown. The touchdown came early in the second quarter; Brady found him wide open as he breezed into the end zone. Burkhead also showed his versatility by working as a running back and wide receiver throughout the game. If Burkhead keeps up this athletic play, the first string running backs might be in trouble.
Statistically speaking, DJ Foster had a very impressive game. With 10 carries for 30 yards, 7 catches for 85 yards, and 2 touchdowns, Belichick obviously has his eyes on the running back. Both of Foster’s touchdowns occurred within two minutes of each other at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The first was a 25-yard pass from Garoppolo followed by a quick sprint to the end zone. Foster’s second touchdown was an easy 3-yard pitch from Brissett. Even with this standout performance, Foster has a lot more work to do if he wants a spot on this year’s roster. Competitors such as Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and Brandon Bolden still stand in his way.
Last week Cyrus Jones was put in the hot seat as one of the players with the most to prove. Finally, things may be starting to turn around for the cornerback. Jones saw 94 snaps, had four tackles, as well as four punt returns for 58 yards. The moment all Patriots fans realized Jones was back in the groove: on a punt, Jones caught the ball and danced around the Texans defense for a 32-yard return. He also had an athletic 15-yard return later in the game. The big question surrounding Jones’ sudden performance upgrade: will he be able to do play this well again and continue doing it? Many things are still unclear in regard to where he stands in the roster (and if he stands in it) but he has finally reached a positive start.
According to most media outlets, Malcolm Butler had the worst performance of all players on the field during Saturday’s game. Butler was beaten five times by Texans receivers for a total of 71 yards. His struggle started with the first possession of the game. Texans backup receiver Bruce Ellington ran a route against Butler and they were just about on top of each other. As the ball was thrown, both players turned around; but only Ellington made an effort to jump and catch the ball. Butler gave up 37 yards on the first possession of the game.
Later in the first quarter, Jaelen Strong was able to beat Butler for a touchdown. Butler addressed his poor play after the game saying he just has to keep getting better each week.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s on and off performances are giving people whiplash. On Saturday, Garoppolo was 15-of-23 for 145 yards; with an interception and a touchdown. One of his worst mistakes was a fumble during the fourth quarter. Garoppolo had the ball knocked out of his hand as linebacker Tony Washington Jr. hit him from the right side. A few plays later, as Garoppolo was running away from pressure, he threw the ball directly to cornerback Denzel Rice. The interception nearly resulted in a pick-six; but Rice was stopped at the 4 yard line. After the game, Garoppolo showed class by admitting to his mistakes and how they played into the Patriots’ loss. The quarterback still has a lot to learn if he wants to be Brady’s successor.
Jacoby Brissett’s performance was similar to that of the last game against the Jaguars; and that isn’t good news. The quarterback took the field with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter after Jimmy Garoppolo threw his interception, resulting in a Texans touchdown. Brissett was put in a similar situation at the end of the Jaguars game, with the same end result. Brissett should have marched the team downfield for a score at the end of the fourth quarter with ease; but he didn’t. On the 8-yard line with a minute left, Brissett fumbled the ball through the end zone. Game over. Once again, he was unable to follow through with a fourth quarter comeback drive. It’s clear, the third-string quarterback still needs to mature as a passer.
The Patriots will fly out to Detroit for their third preseason game against the Lions on Friday. Hopefully the Patriots will continue to work out the kinks prior to game time.