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Ten takeaways from Patriots-Giants preseason opener

Michael Hurley's takeaways from Patriots' preseason opener against Giants
Michael Hurley's takeaways from Patriots' preseason opener against Giants 03:06

BOSTON -- The Patriots officially got their preseason underway on Thursday night. It was ... most certainly a preseason game.

While the competitions in August never come close to the quality of the real games, they are nevertheless valuable sessions to get an idea of where some members of the team stand heading into the new season.

With that in mind, here are all of the takeaways from the 23-21 Giants win.

The offense was not the abject disaster that's been described at training camp

No, Mac Jones didn't play. Nor did most of the presumed offensive starters. So this wasn't really a look at "the Patriots' offense."

But the offense that did take the field with Brian Hoyer under center? It was ... fine.

The linemen knew where to go. Handoffs were clean. Passes were completed. A touchdown was scored. It looked like ... a football team running football plays.

Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising, but based on seemingly every single report from the training camp fields, it has to at least be a welcome sight of sorts for fans who might have been fretting.

That being said ... the Patriots aren't exactly ready to go out and drop 30 points on the Dolphins. This also wasn't an entirely new and exotic offense. Nobody watching would have confused it for Mike Shanahan's Denver offense. The running game was brutal. So it's hard to say what it means, if anything.

But the point is ... the football players looked like football players playing football. 

Matt Patricia is play-caller No. 1, and Joe Judge is his backup

The "mystery" of who's calling the offensive plays appears to be solved, with Matt Patricia shouldering those duties on the first two drives of the game, when Hoyer was under center. Joe Judge seemed to take over those duties when rookie Bailey Zappe took over at quarterback in the second quarter. Judge will be getting tons of TV time this year as the coach who immediately gets in the ear of Mac Jones upon the QB's arrival to the sideline.

The Patriots gained 75 yards on 13 plays in Patricia's two series running the show, capped by a touchdown pass after hurrying to get in a snap on the final play of the first quarter. The Patriots gained five yards on six plays for Judge's first two series, going three-and-out on both -- and narrowly avoiding a safety on the first. 

Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell apparently not starters

This was not a night for starters to be playing, so it stood out that cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell started the game and played for the first quarter. Mitchell was one of the few free-agent additions this past offseason, while Butler is obviously stepping back into football after sitting out for all of last year.

The two combined for a fun play, with Mitchell punching the ball loose from receiver Collin Johnson (after a blown coverage) and Butler recovering the loose ball.

It was a heck of a punch by Mitchell.

Cole Strange played

We all presume that first-round pick Cole Strange will be a starter at left guard this year ... because he kind of needs to be a starter. Yet he did play in this game, which makes a lot of sense. 

Not only is he new to the NFL, but he didn't exactly see NFL-caliber competition on a weekly basis during his days at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Strange worked for the first two Patriots drives, and viewers didn't hear much about him. That means, of course, that he was doing his job just fine.

A touchdown for Tyquan

Brian Hoyer lobbed a deep ball up the right sideline for rookie speedster Tyquan Thornton on the second drive of the game, but the rookie was unable to come down with the ball. (Hoyer underthrew it a bit, which may be a common occurrence with a player as fast as Thornton.) The play didn't count, due to an illegal contact penalty on New York, but it could have been a big gain.

Thornton was unaffected though, as he worked through illegal contact in the end zone at the end of the drive to spring himself free and catch a touchdown in the back of the end zone.

Thornton caught a second pass in the second quarter -- that one from Zappe -- to finish with just nine receiving yards. But he got his feet wet in the end zone, which has to be a good feeling for any rookie in his first NFL action.

The NFL is fast -- just ask Bailey Zappe

Bailey Zappe is coming off the single most prolific season in NCAA football history. The NFL -- even a preseason game playing with and against backups -- is a lot different.

Zappe looked like a rookie when he made his way onto the field in the second quarter. His first pass was thrown to nobody, which led to Thornton committing offensive pass interference to try to get to it. Zappe's next pass got fellow rookie Kevin Harris blown up for a loss of two. The next pass was incomplete, and then Zappe went scrambling into his end zone before a throwaway on third down. It should have been intentional grounding, but referee John Hussey ruled that Zappe had left the pocket, even though he hadn't.

Zappe got three series under center in the second quarter, going 3-for-9 for 16 yards while taking a sack for a loss of eight. 

Bailey Zappe
  Bailey Zappe Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

The 23-year-old had a lot more composure when he came out for the third quarter, but he was fooled into throwing a fourth-down interception in the fourth quarter to end a drive. By the fourth quarter, with more than half of a football game under his belt, Zappe led his second touchdown drive of the half. This one ended with a lob pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 21-20.

Zappe got the bulk of the work at QB and finished 19-for-32 for 205 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He also converted a QB sneak on a third-and-1, which is a prerequisite for all Patriots quarterbacks for the rest of eternity.

John Hussey loves announcing penalties

Enough, John! Enough! We get it. Let's move this thing a long some, huh?

The officiating crew called 13 enforced penalties in the first half. IN THE FIRST HALF! Two more penalties were declined. That's a penalty for every two minutes of game clock.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick argues with line judge Carl Johnson. Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

That's too many penalties.

Perhaps that's indicative of a real lack of discipline on the part of both teams but it's hard to make that judgment when the flags are flying so freely.

This was cool

See this?

That was cool. That is all.

The pass rush got after Daniel Jones

If the Giants value Daniel Jones, they have a funny way of showing it. Because that young man got pummeled in his time on the field.

That first one involved Raekwon McMillan bullying an O-lineman back into the quarterback.

Jones finished his night going 6-for-10 passing for 69 yards, taking one sack and rushing for a six-yard gain on a third-and-5.

Odds and ends

WR Tre Nixon dropped a pass on a third-and-2 on the opening drive, forcing the Patriots to punt. He later hauled in a 36-yard pass to open the second half, then caught a 32-yarder on the opposite sideline later in the drive. ... Justin Herron committed a pair of false start penalties. ... Rookie running back Kevin Harris plunged into the end zone from the 3-yard line for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. ... Defensive tackle Carl Davis and offensive tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron suffered lower-body injuries. All three players ended up walking off under their own power. Converted O-lineman Bill Murray was also banged up in the fourth quarter. ... Bill Belichick gave a smile and a hug to Steve Burton for his birthday. 

... Joejuan Williams committed a facemask penalty, negating a third-down stop by the Patriots' defense. The Giants scored a touchdown two plays later. ... Myles Bryant returned a punt for 30 yards. It happened right on the Patriots' sideline, and it fired everybody up over there. ... Kickers Nick Folk and Tristan Vizcaino split duties on the first two Patriots PATs. They were both successful. Vizcaino hit another one when the Patriots scored in the fourth quarter. ... Kristian Wilkerson was the standout offensive performer, with eight catches for 99 yards. As a team, the Patriots ran for just 52 yards on 18 carries (2.9-yard average). ... After going up 21-20 with 4:56 left in the game, the Patriots gave up a 72-yard drive, which ended with a game-winning kick by Graham Gano of the Giants. Nobody really cared. ... The Patriots won't practice again until Monday. They'll welcome the Panthers to Foxboro for joint practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday before their preseason game at Gillette Stadium on Friday night.

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