In what was a mostly painful game to watch, the Patriots (or at least the guys they sent out there) had their good moments (mostly on defense) and their bad moments (mostly on offense).
One thing’s for sure: Tom Brady is the most important player in the NFL.
Put it this way: If Matt Cassel or Matt Gutierrez ends up being the answer, I’m not sticking around to find out what the question was.
This is a big preseason for Matt Cassel. He's entering the last year of his contract, the Patriots drafted a QB in the third round of this year's draft, and Matt Gutierrez is under Patriots' control for two more years.
If Cassel doesn't perform well this preseason, he probably doesn't make the team.
If Thursday’s game was any indication, he’s not exactly handling the pressure well. He was indecisive, inaccurate, and the offense was stagnant while he was running the show.
Some of that had to do with the defensive pressure (the offensive line they threw out there didn’t exactly cover itself in glory), but Cassel needs to show some level of improvement if he’s going to stick over Gutierrez.
Frankly, it’s hard to tell the two Matt’s apart on the field.
Trust me, Gutierrez likes that observation a heck of a lot more than Cassel.
Kevin O'Connell looked the best of the three quarterbacks, but that might have been due to the competition. Hopefully we’ll get to see him earlier in games later in the preseason.
O’Connell is the only safe bet of the three quarterbacks who played to be on the roster come September. The two Matts are fighting for one spot (barring an injury), and thus far, the younger Matt is winning.
Jerod Mayo looks like the real deal.
He’s quick, instinctive, and knows how to make the big hit. He looked very much like the starting middle linebacker for the New England Patriots we all hope he’ll become.
Shawn Crable played a pretty decent game as well. While I think his usefulness in the regular season will be mostly limited to passing situations, he seemed to hold up well against the run in Thursday’s game. He also had a half-sack and an interception.
Call it a good first impression.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that C.J. Jones probably didn’t sleep too well last night. Dropped passes, fielding a punt inside the five-yard line, fumbling deep in his own zone...the “you’re not going to make it past the first cut-down day” trifecta.
Tough night for the future former New England Patriot.
I was hoping to see more of the rookie cornerbacks, but it’s really hard to judge a cornerback on TV. You only see them when they’re making a great play or a mistake.
If they’re steady, it rarely comes across on TV.
I did notice a few passes completed in front of Wheatley, but he did seem to be in position most of the time. In all honestly, I’m not even sure if Wilhite made it on the field. If he did, he wasn’t noticeably beaten.
The Patriots' secondary can be dinked and dunked against if the front seven isn’t pressuring the quarterback. They seem to have smart players who won’t get beaten deep and are rarely out of position, but no great cover guys.
Which means, if you’re a patient quarterback and your offensive line holds up, you can probably move your team down the field against the 2008 Patriots.
Running against this team...that’s another thing altogether.
The Patriots should be good against the run. If Mayo can settle in and become a good-to-great middle linebacker, they may be dominant against the run.
All in all, some good play from the rookies and spotty play from the quarterbacks in an otherwise boring game.
Tank Williams and Sam Aiken both left the game with knee injuries. Aiken, who is supposed to be a big-time special-teams contributor, looked worse than Williams.
Tank Williams has looked great in camp as a safety/situational linebacker. He would be a significant loss.
Something to keep an eye on, anyway.
Hopefully next week we’ll get to see a series or two from the real offense.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.