It was our first glimpse at one of the New England Patriots' most valuable receivers, and a look at their backup plan after trading away one of their most valuable offensive linemen.
The Patriots lost to the New York Giants, 16-13 in the preseason finale, but the game presented several bright spots for some younger players looking to make a last impression and make the final roster. That being said, there were some players who might like to have a second chance to make that last impression.
Here's a look at some of the players whose stock rose, and some others who have some work to do following the loss:
Aaron Dobson: Tonight was Aaron Dobson's first game action of the preseason, and he delivered exactly what the Patriots need: a big-bodied, physical receiver who can stretch the defense vertically. Dobson did not appear to have any issues pushing off his previously injured left foot, and finished with three catches for 57 yards with a 33-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. The touchdown catch was spectacular, with Dobson getting away from a hold by the receiver while making a leaping, falling reception into the end zone. It wasn't a perfect outing for Dobson, but no one expected it to be. He looked a little rusty while running an in-breaking route on an incomplete pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at 7:58 in the first quarter, but tonight was a great first step for Dobson.
Zach Moore: It has been an up-and-down preseason for Zach Moore, but he finished on a high note. The rookie pass-rusher showed a range of skills in stopping the run, using his long arms to shed blocks, and a quick first step to get inside their pads first. He logged four tackles and a sack. He shoved an offensive tackle to the ground on 3rd-and-goal with 4:16 left in the second quarter, allowing safety Nate Ebner to make the stop. The Patriots haven't had a lot of depth at defensive end in recent years, but after releasing Will Smith, the team may have created a spot for a younger player to prove himself worthy of the roster.
Josh Kline: We may have seen the Logan Mankins replacement plan in effect tonight. Josh Kline took every snap at left guard through the third quarter. We won't put him in the Patriots Hall of Fame yet, but he looked good as a run-blocker and better in pass protection. Kline is not a mauling guard, but he has good footwork and hand technique, and he knows his assignments. He let Giants defensive tackle Israel Idonije get past him for a sack in the fourth quarter, but he didn't have any other glaring mistakes. The competition will only get tougher from here, and it looks like Kline could be tested early.
Jerel Worthy: It's only been two weeks since Jerel Worthy was traded to the Patriots, but he has already made a positive on the defensive line. Worthy didn't pitch a perfect game tonight; he rushed the wrong way on Giants running back Andre Williams' 43-yard run on 4th-and-5 in the first quarter, but mostly held his ground in the running game, finishing the day with three tackles. He also showed off some pass-rushing ability, flushing quarterback Ryan Nassib out of the pocket and (unsuccessfully) chasing him around in the open field at 12:53 in the third quarter. The Patriots are hurting for depth on the defensive line with Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga still out, but Worthy will find himself a nice role as an end or a nose tackle in the Patriots' 3-4 front, and potentially as an interior rusher in nickel packages.
Tim Wright: Wright was traded to the Patriots just two days ago and already made his mark on the offense, with four catches on six targets for 43 yards. He ran a lot of the same types of patterns that we used to see from tight end Aaron Hernandez, including a drag route where he ran across the formation behind the offensive line on a play-action fake. The Patriots were clearly trying to get him in space, but he was also effective in traffic, settling into a soft zone to make a nice catch over the middle on 3rd-and-14 at 1:03 in the first quarter. It appears Wright is a tight end in name only, as the Patriots were moving him all over the field on offense.
Michael Buchanan: The second-year defensive end notched a pair of quarterback pressures and a hit, but was hobbled by a pair of injuries on separate drives, holding his groin on the sideline at one point and then leaving with an ankle injury later on. He was designated as questionable to return, but that was the last we saw of him. The Patriots do not have a great deal of depth on the defensive line, and Moore's strong performance could not have come at a better time.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Tonight's performance from Jimmy Garoppolo was a good example of what we saw from him in practices for the first two weeks of training camp before the Patriots first preseason game. Since that point, he has been red hot in games and practice, but took a step back in his first NFL start. He completed 22 of 42 passes for 282 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He had multiple bad reads, and one interception was called back by illegal contact away from the play. He also had multiple bad throws that missed their mark entirely. The Patriots could have used a strong performance from Garoppolo to help justify moving on from Mallett, but they may still be better off carrying three quarterbacks.
Josh Boyce: This could be the last we see of Josh Boyce in a Patriots uniform. Garoppolo did not have his best night, and the receivers struggled as a result, but Boyce's final stat line of 26 yards on two receptions and nine targets looks bad — especially when you consider that one of the receptions was an 18-yard screen on the final play of the game. He was also the intended target on Garoppolo's interception, and it appeared the quarterback and receiver were not on the same page on the route. Some of those incomplete passes were not his fault, but tonight was a continuation, not an aberration. Boyce has underwhelmed for much of the preseason, and could be on his way out of New England due in part to a surplus at his position and in other part to his own struggles.