BOSTON (CBS) — There’s no way to put a shine on this one: The fourth and final preseason game is typically not a masterpiece. In fact, among the meaningless games in the preseason, it stands alone as the least meaningful.
That is, of course, mostly regarding the final score. If you’re tuning in to see if the Patriots can beat the Giants, you might be better off playing Madden.
However, there’s still reason to watch as the Patriots get their final tune-up before the real football begins. Here’s a quick look at What To Watch For in this one.
It’s highly, highly likely that Jimmy Garoppolo takes exactly zero meaningful snaps this season as a member of the New England Patriots. That would be a good thing for New England, because it would mean that Tom Brady stays healthy, but in the meanwhile, it’s time to soak in as much Jimmy G. as possible before he gets stashed away until next summer.
Garoppolo has been rather awesome thus far in the preseason, and he’ll get the chance to start this game and play at least the majority of it.
The rookie QB has been pretty good through three games, and he’s been a lot of fun to watch. He’s 24-for-37 (64.9 percent) for 334 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Not that it matters a ton, but he actually has the third-best passer rating in the whole NFL this preseason.
Now that he’ll be playing for presumably two or three or four quarters, let’s see what he can do with some more playing time.
With the Logan Mankins trade going down on Tuesday, the offensive line may be the unit that actually needs this fourth preseason game for live reps prior to the season starting.
Granted, the tackle positions are well and set with Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder, but the interior of the line remains very much a mystery. It’ll be worth noting who plays and who stays on the sidelines, if anyone at all. But it’s clear that of Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Jon Halapio, Bryan Stork, there’s not enough room for everybody. And whoever does play, it’ll be important to work cohesively — and quickly.
It should be made perfectly clear that if you think you can try to step up in Week 4 of the preseason with a breakout game and win a job, it’s more than likely too late. Except in the rarest of rare circumstances, a coaching staff has never said, “Well, we were going to cut him, but he looked great in the final preseason game. Let’s keep him and put him on the starting D.”
Still, there may be a few bubble battles that play out in this one. On offense, we’ll all be watching Brian Tyms, who’s had a pretty strong preseason with nine receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns. His four-game suspension will likely result in a delay in his ultimate roster fate, but a strong showing should cement his spot on the team.
Defensively, Malcolm Butler has managed to become a talking point throughout the entire preseason, and for mostly positive reasons. Butler’s had a lot of activity in the preseason games, and he’s stood up well.
At other positions, there’s Josh Boyce at receiver and Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson at safety to keep an eye on. Again, jobs aren’t necessarily won or lost based on the final preseason performance, but certain areas bear special attention.
There’s nothing more devastating than a player getting hurt in the preseason. When that injury comes in the fourth and final preseason game, you can multiply the devastation by 10.
On both sides of the ball, for both teams, you have to hope 60 minutes can come and go without anyone needing special attention from the medical staff. That’s not what anybody needs.
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