Popped & Dropped: Which Patriots impressed vs. Giants?
FOXBORO -— Just because it's the preseason finale doesn't mean there aren't takeaways. Particularly when the Patriots roll out three of their top wideouts to take some snaps with their impressive rookie quarterback.
Let's get to them with another edition of Popped and Dropped...
POPPED: JOSH GORDON
The big-bodied receiver showed why he has the ability to contribute immediately in any offensive scheme. Slants. Back-shoulder throws. Fades. Those are always going to be good options for someone with Gordon's physical skill set. He was targeted six times and caught two (dropped one) for 30 yards. Several of those yards were created after contact as his frame makes him a constant threat to break tackles.
POPPED: DEMARYIUS THOMAS
He might make my "realistic expectations" for 2019 look like an insult if he keeps this up. For a guy who tore his Achilles eight months ago, he got off the line well Thursday, broke off routes sharply, and reacted well in real time when plays fell apart. He finished with seven catches on eight targets for 87 yards and two scores. (He mixed in a fumble on a hand-off that might quickly be torn from the playbook.) That had to have been the kind of night that helps a player coming back off of a serious injury to regain some confidence. Julian Edelman also saw some action Thursday, catching one pass for 20 yards on his lone drive of the game.
POPPED: JOEJUAN WILLIAMS
He had one loud tackle early on but the reason Williams makes the "Popped" list is because of where he was used. He was in the deep middle of the field at times. At others, he looked like a box safety. His size and physicality make him an intriguing fit at that level of the defense if he's not being used outside the numbers as a corner. It gives him more versatility as he kicks off his pro career, and it gives the Patriots some flexibility should they ever be forced to go without one of their old standbys at the safety spot. The coaching staff must trust the rookie second-rounder to handle a lot if they're giving him those kinds of responsibilities on top of what he has to know at corner.
POPPED: KEION CROSSEN
Things didn't start out all that well for the second-year corner. He was beaten for a touchdown by Alonzo Russell. Golden Tate made him look his age on a couple more first-quarter throws. But in the second quarter, Crossen settled in. He had a lunging pass breakup, a pick where he toe-tapped on the sideline, and another breakup just before the half. He picked up three more breakups in the second half, by my count. He should be on the roster as a reserve corner and a special-teamer.
POPPED: DAVID PARRY
If the Patriots want a backup nose tackle, Parry could be their guy. The 315-pounder had back-to-back run stuffs on third-and-short and then fourth-and-short to create a turnover on downs. He's had a strong summer and it wouldn't be surprising if he were to get picked up should the Patriots release him this weekend.
UPDATE (Friday, 1:30 p.m.): Parry didn't even last until the weekend, as he was part of the team's cuts on Friday.
POPPED: GUNNER OLSZEWSKI
He was decisive and aggressively attacked space in the return game. He looked for contact (picking up a penalty at one point) and executed offensively as a receiver. He even got to spend some time at his college position -- corner -- and looked like he'd been playing there all summer. He continues to look like exactly the type of versatile, tough, improving player the Patriots like.
DROPPED: HJALTE FROHOLDT
The rookie guard has had a bumpy summer with penalties and quarterback pressures allowed in preseason play. Then he appeared to suffer an upper-body injury on Thursday that had him favoring his right arm -- he was already wearing a shoulder harness on his right shoulder -- as he walked off the field. That's the kind of injury that could impact his ability to land on the 53-man roster since this was looking like a developmental year for him anyway. The team recently traded for Jermaine Eluemunor to give it some interior offensive line depth.
DROPPED: DEATRICH WISE
Can't fault Wise for anything that happened Thursday. He actually played well, picking up a sack and several pressures in the snaps he was given. But he continues to look like a tough fit for this defensive scheme and he didn't see any action until a few drives into the game. It's hard to read into snap counts in the preseason finale, and maybe we're venturing too far into that territory here. But it's hard to envision a scenario in which he has a significant role on the roster given his body type and skill set.
DROPPED: MATT LaCOSSE
LaCosse didn't play Thursday, which is part of the reason why he's a dropper here. In warmups, he appeared to be unable to push laterally off his left leg. If he's not progressing in the right direction at quick enough pace, will he be in the running for a roster spot? I'll still have him on my last 53-man projection in part because his injury seems like one that might be OK in a matter of weeks, not months. Plus, if they don't keep LaCosse, it's hard to see them keeping any other tight ends outside of Ryan Izzo, which would make them incredibly light at that spot.
DROPPED: DUKE DAWSON
He had an interception when a deflection landed in his arms. But he dropped another he should've had and he picked up an illegal contact penalty. There was another play over the middle of the field when Olszewski beat him to a tackle. I believe Dawson will be on the team due in part to where he was drafted and what he could be in this defense (the Patriots might need a slot corner if Jonathan Jones hits free agency next offseason), but Thursday wasn't his best showing.
UPDATE (Friday, 11:40 a.m.): The Patriots have traded Dawson to the Denver Broncos.
DROPPED: BRAXTON BERRIOS
After not playing in the third preseason game, Berrios wasn't targeted on Thursday. He could be a candidate to slip through to the practice squad given the little he's put on tape over the course of the last two weeks. Earlier this month he looked like a good candidate for the active roster -- he had strong weeks of joint practices against the Lions and Titans -- but now that seems far-fetched.