The Patriots’ preseason is just about in the books; training camp has wrapped up, the team played its fourth and final exhibition game Thursday night against the Giants, and the first roster cut has been made.
But before coach Bill Belichick and his staff can fully turn their attention to the Sept. 7 opener in Miami, they must pare the roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players Saturday afternoon.
All 32 NFL teams must submit the moves that get them to 53 by 4 p.m. that day, although they can continue to shuffle the names as the days and weeks go by. Teams can establish their 10-player practice squads on Sunday afternoon after all clubs have had the opportunity to make waiver claims.
Almost all of the Patriots’ likely starters sat out Thursday’s 16-13 loss to the Giants, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t lessons that could be taken from the game.
“I thought overall last night’s game was a real good experience for us on a lot of levels,” Belichick said during a Friday conference call. “We had a lot of good situational plays come up in the game that we all can learn from, any player, every coach, things that happened that we’ve worked on, some of which haven’t occurred or haven’t occurred maybe as vividly as they did in last night’s game.
“It was a good experience for a lot of young players who always can use the playing time to get it. Some guys played pretty much a full game, so they had that whole experience of playing the game, going in at halftime, going back in on every series as opposed to being in a certain role like third down or kicking game or whatever it happened to be.
“There were a lot of really good things we can learn from and improve on in the game. We certainly made our fair share of errors and things we need to correct, so that’s all part of it too.”
Three players drew a lot of interest during the game and afterward: newly acquired tight end Tim Wright, whom the Patriots received from the Buccaneers in the Logan Mankins trade; guard Josh Kline, who played every snap at left guard, the spot Mankins occupied for nine seasons; and Aaron Dobson, who made his preseason debut after offseason foot surgery. Wright played 42 snaps and was targeted six times by Jimmy Garoppolo, with four catches.
“I think the big thing for Tim last night was just the opportunity to be in our system and play in our system,” said Belichick. “There are things that happened during the game on the field, on the sidelines, substitutions, on the bench in between series, the communication, all those things.
“He heard the snap count. He heard the quarterback audible. He heard adjustments being made on the sideline, all those things, which are part of the game. He only knew a handful of plays, but overall I thought he handled the situation pretty well.”
After the game, Garoppolo mentioned Wright’s smarts, and Belichick agreed, saying Wright was able to absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time.
“It certainly wasn’t perfect, but the formations and the routes and so forth, there’s certainly a lot of fine-tuning that needs to be done, but he picked all that up pretty quickly and when he got into the game didn’t forget it,” Belichick said.
“Sometimes it’s one thing to sit in the meeting and go over it and feel like, yeah, you’ve got it. It’s another thing to actually go out there and do it at full speed in a game situation. He handled quite a bit of information in a short amount of time pretty well, so that was good.
“Now this week, obviously, he’ll be starting at the beginning like everybody else will in terms of our game plan and preparations for Miami, so we’ll just take it day by day and see how it goes.”
Belichick didn’t offer much about Kline, believed to be the Week 1 starter at left guard, but said the pass protection against the Giants was good.
“I’d probably say it’s about the same thing with all the players that played: There were a lot of good things out there and there were some things that at times weren’t so good, need to be corrected, need to be improved,” Belichick said. “Overall offensively we had not very many problems in pass protection. A couple, but overall not very many.
“We didn’t run the ball as well as we would like, or need to. That was a combination of things. Sometimes it was multiple people or a combination block or the back and the offensive linemen with the read or whatever it happened to be.”
The Patriots had 23 carries for 54 yards — 2.3 yards per carry.
Second-year receiver Dobson, who missed all of the on-field work during the spring’s organized team activities and much of training camp, said last week he felt he’d done a good job keeping up in the classroom and through mental reps. He has done that, Belichick said, and through playing against New York, also gained some needed confidence.
“I do think Aaron has done a good job keeping up with everything mentally, and he’s a smart kid, that’s not really been a big problem with him anyway,” Belichick said. “I think the main thing now, well, twofold: one, last night was for him to actually play and get hit and catch the ball and get some confidence that he’s going to catch the ball and get hit and get up and everything is going to be all right.
“Now it’s a continuation of refining his technique and timing with the quarterbacks.”
Dobson had the Patriots’ only touchdown of the night, a 33-yard pass from Garoppolo.Follow Shalise Manza Young on Twitter at @shalisemyoung.