As several of my colleagues noted tonight throughout the Patriots 23-6 loss to Washington, jobs aren’t won in the first preseason game, but they sure can be lost.
Several of the young players looking to make an impression on Bill Belichick may have Thursday night – but in a bad way. Fumbles, missed tackles, misplays. Roy Finch, an undrafted rookie running back, has plenty of moves. But he fumbled a kick-off (OK, that was nullified because of a penalty), and later didn’t look for a pass and muffed a punt. Rookie tight end Justin Jones also dropped a pass right to him. Lots of work to be done.
So, the back-up quarterback competition is in full gear now. Incumbent Ryan Mallett didn’t look good (5-for-12, 55 yards) while rookie gunslinger Jimmy Garoppolo did (9-of-13, 157 yards, 1 touchdown). Granted, Garoppolo did most, or all, of his work against guys who aren’t going to be on the field come September, but he looked pretty darn good. Quick reads, strong arm.
And granted, Mallett didn’t get a whole lot of help from the other 10 guys on offense while he was in. And that might have been the most disappointing aspect. The offensive line, minus starters Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell (who started the second half) was soft and allowed a lot of pressure on Mallett.
Left tackle Nate Solder, in particular, had a bad first half, committing a holding penalty that negated a Mallett first-down throw on the opening drive and allowing a sack on the second drive. He has to play better.
Belichick obviously wanted to take a closer look at some of his younger players and reserves in game conditions. Undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler was most impressive, with six tackles and a couple of nice plays downfield.
The starting safety position opposite Devin McCourty also still looks up for grab. Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung – who have both had their share of great plays and bad plays over the years – played well. Duron Harmon has a fight on his hands.
The Philadelphia Eagles come to Foxborough next week for a pair of joint practices (Tuesday and Wednesday, 2 p.m., both open to the public) and then preseason game No.2 at Gillette Stadium on Friday.
Expect to see more of the starters in that one.