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BOSTON (CBS) — Well, at least that’s over.
Look, I love football. It’s the best. There are so many things that happen during one single game, hundreds of plays, thousands of intricacies, dozens of big-time moments, a number of knuckle-headed mistakes — they all account for more than enough material to discuss, debate and analyze for a full week.
But the preseason is just not that. I’m not sure what the preseason is, but I’m just thankful that it’s over.
The Patriots are surely happy too, especially because they made it through training camp and the four-game preseason slate without any injuries to any key players. If you look around the league, it’s not hard to find devastating injuries to a good number of important players, and the Patriots are fortunate to have dodged that bullet.
So before it’s time to officially move on to Week 1, where Jeff Tuel (who?) and the Buffalo Bills await, let’s quickly run though the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 28-20 victory over the Giants.
–The Patriots finished the preseason with a 3-1 record. If you’re into weird connections that are mostly meaningless, you won’t like that the 2009 team also went 3-1 in the preseason. That ’09 team was a great disappointment, going 10-6 before getting blown out at home by the Ravens on wild-card weekend. The only other seasons in the Bill Belichick era when the Pats went 3-1 were 2002, another disappointing 9-7 season that ended without a playoff spot, and 2001, which obviously ended rather well for the Patriots.
–I don’t think I’m the only one to have watched Ryan Mallett all preseason and wonder aloud whether he can be an NFL quarterback. Just as soon as he makes an awful pass that is unacceptable at this level, he comes right back with an above-average throw for a big gain or a score. On the whole though, I think you look at Mallett’s ceiling as a backup quarterback … for teams not named the Bills or Jets.
–Mallett had a pretty great comment about rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce, who hauled in Mallett’s long bomb for a 40-yard touchdown. Mallett was asked if he was nervous after releasing the ball that he had overthrown the receiver, who as able to make a finger-tip catch at full speed.
“Josh is a fast, fast player,” Mallett said. “I didn’t think I overthrew him; I was hoping I threw it far enough.”
–There should be a rule that once everybody starts talking about one player as being the “surprise cut,” that player officially can no longer be considered a “surprise cut.” That player this year is Adrian Wilson. Just about every football thinker around that team has found it to be bad news for the veteran that he’s had so much playing time the last two weeks, to the point that everyone’s eager to say he’s a potential “surprise cut.” That’s not how surprises work, people.
–As for cuts, surprises or otherwise, here are the notable names I have not making the team: Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, Daniel Fells, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner.
With Washington, I don’t think the muffed punt will work against him, because the coaching staff likely understood he was trying to make something happen in a preseason game, something he probably wouldn’t try in a real game. But I also don’t think he’s going to be given a roster spot just for the potential of taking back a punt, like he did with his 43-yard return. Julian Edelman is an adequate return man, and in that position, that’s just fine.
Bolden didn’t play, and I think with LeGarrette Blount looking as good or better than the team could have hoped, that spot goes to Blount. Daniel Fells was out there catching passes from Tim Tebow late in the game, which was not a good sign for his spot. Bequette and Ebner only make the “notable” list because they were third-round and sixth-round picks, respectively, last year, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll be on the team this year.
–One player absent from that list is, of course, Tim Tebow. I just don’t see any reason why the Patriots would have signed him if the plan all along was to cut him. I’d imagine the team wants him to spend a year “learning behind Brady” to build his value, then trade him for a draft pick next year to a team willing to buy into the hype. That’s bad news for the 54th guy on the roster who otherwise would have a job come Sunday, but that’s my best guess as to what Tebow is doing in New England.
–We know that Tiger Woods has spent a lot of time in his life hanging out around women. Apparently, their presence has led him to start doing some feminine things, such as rocking mom jeans to the game.
That’s not a great look for a dad from Walpole, let alone a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe splurge for the $20 Wranglers the next time you’re at Target, Eldrick.
–Aaron Dobson is a rookie, so some hiccups are to be expected. And to be sure, when passes intended for him end up getting intercepted, he’s not necessarily at fault. But last week, Tom Brady’s interception was intended for Dobson, who moved his body out of the way rather than fight to break up the pass. Mallett’s end-zone interception (which got reversed after replay review) was thrown to Dobson, and Tebow’s interception along the left sideline was as pass to Dobson. And Mallett’s interception that did count was a pass that bounced right off Dobson.
That’s three passes in two games that ended up getting picked off, which is not an ideal ratio. Like I said, they’re not all Dobson’s fault, but that lack of fight and instinct could be why the second-round pick will likely find himself behind Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted) on the depth chart.
–Belichick was obviously not at all willing to speak for even one second about the Aaron Hernandez story in Rolling Stone, and he was ready to walk away from his own press conference if Albert Breer asked him about the story one more time. So it was kind of surprising to see the coach open up on the very next question when he was asked how hard it is to tell a player he’s been cut from the team:
Well, this is the toughest part of the job. We go to camp with 90 guys and we go to 53, so we know we’re going to have to tell 37 people that they can’t be on the team. That’s the math, so it’s always hard when guys work hard, do everything you ask them to do, train hard, put forth all the effort they can put forth, and you still have to tell 37 guys that they can’t be a part of the team this year.
It’s always a tough thing. Certainly, guys that have been around here and have contributed and have won a lot of games for us, which it seems like there’s always a couple of guys in that category every year, but whenever that happens, that’s even tougher because of the relationship and what they’ve done. But we all know it’s a competitive game and a competitive league, and that’s what we sign up for.
Whoever deserves to make it, then those are the guys that we have to keep,” Belichick said. “And the guys that don’t make it, sometimes it’s hard to tell them that, but that’s our job.
By Belichick’s standards, that was pretty much the equivalent to him opening up his diary and reading it to the world.
–There is a 100 percent chance that this picture makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable.
Personally, I prefer the days of icy cold shoulders between Brady and Eli.
–As happy as I am that the preseason is over and the regular season is about to begin, knowing the Patriots play two FCS schools in the first two weeks is a bit of a letdown. Oh well, at least it counts.