By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The preseason, mercifully, is over.

The four-week stretch is an incredibly important part of the roster-building process for coaching staffs, but for spectators who just want to watch real football, August can be a very long month.

Fortunately, though, the preseason is over. And though the scoreboard in the fourth preseason game means even less than the scoreboard means in other preseason games, there are some elements of evaluation to take away from such games.

GAME RECAP: Patriots 17, Giants 12

So, here we go. The Ups and the Downs from the Patriots’ 17-12 win in the Meadowlands.

FOUR UPS

J.C. Jackson

Assuming there was a cornerback job at stake on Thursday, J.C. Jackson came away the winner.

He picked off Kyle Lauletta late in the first quarter, running step-for-step up the left sideline with Kalif Raymond and refusing to bite on a little bit of a double move. Jackson turned to find the ball on the deep ball and made a play to pick it off.

In the third quarter, Jackson made another interception, again on a deep pass up the left sideline. Jackson reached up with his left hand to break up the pass, but managed to tip it back to himself for the pick.

Jackson also broke up another deep pass to Raymond late in the first half. On that one, he did make contact with the receiver a split-second before the ball arrived. But the result was good, as it didn’t draw a flag.

Jackson did suffer an injury late in the third quarter, but it appeared to be a cramp.

Ryan Allen

It’s rare for the punter to land here, but Allen completed a very strong preseason. That was important for him, because the Patriots brought in some younger, cheaper competition in Corey Bojorquez, who would have been there to steal his job if he slipped up.

Allen knows that life all too well, as he was in that younger/cheaper role in 2013 when he unseated Zoltan Mesko. Allen responded well to the challenge this summer and secured his job with a strong summer of punting.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Danny Etling’s Second Half

Overall, Danny Etling didn’t flash as someone who’s definitely ready for a career in the NFL. But you have to give him credit for this: After a very bad first half, he responded very well with a solid second half.

It wasn’t his arm, though, that stood out the most, as the quarterback faked a handoff in the fourth quarter and kept the ball himself off the right side of the line. The quarterback saw daylight and was off to the races, sprinting for an 86-yard touchdown run. You don’t often see a Patriots quarterback do that.

Overall, he rushed for 115 yards on five carries before a couple of kneel-downs, and he showed a willingness to drop his shoulder into much bigger football players.

K.J. Maye

The receiver won’t make the roster, but he was the star of this game. He caught five passes for 71 yards, and was without a doubt the Patriots’ best receiving option on the night. What that means going forward for the 24-year-old who bounced around several teams last year without getting into a game is unclear. But perhaps that type of performance will at least be enough for Maye to stick around in Foxboro in a practice squad capacity.

Passing-wise, Etling went 6-for-8 for 75 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

FOUR DOWNS

Danny Etling’s First Half

T’was not a crisp showing for the seventh-round rookie to start this game. If one were to venture a guess as to what his near future might entail, one could safely assume practice squad. The plays he put on tape on Thursday won’t entice any teams around the league. He’ll need some seasoning in practice in order to have a chance to become an NFL quarterback.

He was 12-for-24 for 82 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions in the first half. He threw two interceptions total in his senior season at LSU last year.

Ulrick John

He may not be a household name in living rooms throughout New England, but he figured to be a depth member of the Patriots’ offensive line. And with Isaiah Wynn out for the year and with Marcus Cannon dealing with injury this summer, tackle depth figures to be particularly important for the Patriots.

But John suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter. He skipped his way to the sideline after suffering the injury, and he eventually walked to the locker room under his own power. NESN’s Doug Kyed spotted John wearing a walking boot after the game. A potentially bad injury at this point of the year is the last thing someone like John — and the Patriots — needed.

A.J. Moore

The Giants scored a touchdown on a 41-yard pass from Kyle Lauletta to Amba Etta-Tawo. It was a touchdown that was essentially gift-wrapped by rookie cornerback A.J. Moore, who took a run at Etta-Tawo as the receiver ran up the sideline … and completely missed. A total whiff. It wasn’t the type of play that would help someone earn a roster spot.

Moore later suffered an injury while covering a punt, making the night much worse for him.

BONUS: Jason McCourty

The veteran cornerback started at safety. We’re not sure what to make of that. But it doesn’t look great.

BONUS: The Helmet Rule

Complaints about the NFL’s new helmet rule sort of went away for a week or two, but they came back in the first half of this game. The Giants were penalized three times in the opening 22 minutes of the game for lowering the head to initiate contact, with the third (incorrectly called on Romeo Okwara) being perhaps the most puzzling. There were also multiple instances — as there always will be — of a ball carrier lowering his head to initiate contact. Those plays didn’t result in penalty calls.

For now, of course, the result of the penalties don’t really matter too much. But with the real season now a week away, there’s not a ton of clarity on what will and won’t draw a flag.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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