17 thoughts on the Patriots’ 17-12 win over the Giants . . .
1. With about a minute left in the first quarter, Paul Turner ran an imprecise route, Danny Etling aimed an inaccurate pass his way, and as the ball skittered along the turf, broadcaster Scott Zolak summed up the entire concept of the fourth preseason game in nine words: “I’m not sure what we’re trying to do here.”
2. I suppose there is some value in it. Shortly after kickoff you can take inventory of which veterans are playing and which are not, and that usually ends up being a pretty accurate indication of who is fighting for a job and who is safe.
3. A decade later, it’s still weird to remember John Lynch out there running around with the Patriots’ scrubs in the fourth preseason game.
4. Doesn’t it seem as if Jason McCourty, who played safety in the first quarter and then for the rest of the night stood next to a guy who looks just like him but has far greater job security, is either the 53rd player in the pecking order or the 54th? He is the epitome of a veteran on the bubble.
5. If I had to guess, I think he makes it, figuring that they would have played him more at safety Thursday night if he still needed to prove something there. I suppose the opposite could be true, too. I do hope he sticks. I’ll take another savvy veteran back there over a quicker but erratic young guy.
6. If it’s possible to play your way onto the roster in a final preseason game, J.C. Jackson might have done it Thursday. He had two interceptions, and at least one graceful pass breakup that I saw. He also made a glaring mistake, essentially pushing a Giants receiver into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Wonder if it comes down to him or McCourty for one spot.
7. The cutdown to 53 comes at 4 p.m. Saturday, but there is going to be nothing final about that 53. I bet there’s a trade for a wide receiver — there is a lot of smoke around that Golden Tate speculation — and probably three or four players who make it on Saturday will be shuffled off the roster before the opener Sept. 9 with the Texans comes around. Maybe more than that.
8. It must be a special kind of disappointment to make the cut after a long camp, only to be dumped for a player coming in from another organization.
9. One thing I’ll miss from preseason: The Bill Belichick-Steve Burton halftime interview. No matter how pleased or — more likely — annoyed by his team he is at the moment, he’s always amusingly polite when the interview ends. “All right, Steve, thanks, appreciate it,” he says, shaking Burton’s hand. Between that and the hints of Perd Hapley in Burton’s interview style, it never fails to make me chuckle.
10. The trivia question on the Patriots television broadcast: Which team did Bill Belichick beat for his first win as a head coach? Bob Socci guessed the Giants. Scott Zolak went with the Bengals. The answer was the Patriots. Belichick’s Browns beat the Patriots, 20-0, on Sept. 8, 1991.
11. Surprised Zolak didn’t get it. He was the rookie third-string quarterback on that team, behind the legendary Tommy Hodson and Hugh Millen, who was basically the Brian Hoyer of his day.
12. Biggest disappointment of camp? It has to be Isaiah Wynn’s season-ending Achilles’ injury. It’s always a bummer to lose a promising new player before you even get a sense for what he can do. The absence of Wynn’s University of Georgia teammate and fellow first-round pick Sony Michel over the last month due to injury also has been a frustration. It seems as if it will be a while before he can pick up some of the slack from Dion Lewis’s departure, and the Patriots are going to miss Lewis enough as it is.
13. Rob Gronkowski seemed happy — I should say, even happier than his usual goofy/sunny disposition — with the $4.3 million incentives in his restructured deal, and so there’s no other reaction other than to be happy for him. NFL players pay a huge price to get those paychecks, and few players have achieved and endured more to make the big bucks.
14. Etling looks like a quarterback who could benefit from playing in one of these upstart pro leagues with a team that has a decent offensive coordinator. He’s not an NFL quarterback yet, but there are sparks of skill that make you hope the Patriots can keep him on the practice squad.
15. Maybe someday his impact on the Patriots organization will exceed that of Kliff Kingsbury, Major Applewhite, or Zac Robinson.
16. That said, his 86-yard run on a quarterback keeper with 3 minutes and 58 seconds left to play was a perfect way to punctuate the preseason.
17. Here’s to that being the last time we’re talking about a Patriots quarterback other than Tom Brady this season.