Head coach Bill Belichick was surprisingly chipper after the Patriots' 20-17 loss to the Giants on Thursday night. Before Belichick focuses in on one of the most stressful weekends of the year — in which he'll inform 22 players they haven’t made the team — he'll tune his attention to the last game tape of the preseason.
Here are a handful of things he'll see.
Buddy's Last Stand
Undrafted free agent Buddy Farnham isn’t going to make the team, but he must have had a great time playing against the Giants. The wide receiver played the majority of the game at safety, and he finished tied for fifth on the team with four total tackles (one solo). But alas, the former Brown standout led the Patriots with two pass defenses, and he knocked away a would-be touchdown pass to Derek Hagan in the third quarter.
Media has been in attendance for all but maybe five of the Patriots' practice sessions, and Farnham had never taken any snaps on defense with media in attendance. Therefore, this is something that came about recently and on very short notice.
If Farnham is a quick study for these things, he'd be a valuable member of the scout team, which increases his chances to earn a spot on the practice squad. That’s not bad for a kid who was already cut once during the first camp of his professional career.
Farnham wasn’t the only guy who played out of place. Late in the fourth quarter, offensive linemen Thomas Welch and Ted Larsen played on the defensive line. Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell also lined up at fullback during the Patriots' failed goal-line series. DeAngelo Willingham, who is a safety by trade, played much of the game at cornerback. Linebacker Pierre Woods took at least one rep at cornerback and also had some reps on the defensive line, as did linebacker Eric Alexander.
No Improvement Up Front
New England's backup offensive linemen offered little reason for confidence, and second-string quarterback Brian Hoyer got his head rocked and nose bloodied for the fourth consecutive game. It's actually remarkable how well Hoyer has played this preseason despite the constant bombardment he's faced from opposing defenses. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 266 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Giants.
It's been a tough summer for the Patriots' offensive line, which has been deserted by Logan Mankins and lost Nick Kaczur to injury. If any of the current starters go down, it could start to get ugly because the backups have been porous.
Under the Radar
Inside linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was in the spotlight at the start of camp, but his star has since dimmed due to Brandon Spikes' emergence. McKenzie is a quiet guy and doesn’t always stick out. Yet, in perhaps the most important game of his short career, he led the Patriots with 10 total tackles, including six solo stops. His spot on the 53-man roster should be safe.
Again, there were few answers that came out of the Patriots' backfield. Laurence Maroney had nine carries for 32 yards to lead the backs, but starter Fred Taylor only gained five yards on four carries, which was a serious downgrade from his impressive showing in Atlanta.
Maroney didn’t take a single snap with the first-team offense throughout the preseason, and he didn’t even play in two of the games. Yes, the Patriots know what they have in Maroney, and that’s a guy who was benched for almost all of the last three games of 2009, and thus, would need some stressful reps in the 2010 preseason.
Taylor, on the other hand, might have gotten the Rich Ohrnberger treatment. He may have been given the start Thursday in order for the coaching staff to get one last evaluation, and if that was the case, Taylor could be in trouble.
And, for whatever it's worth, Belichick was asked in the postgame press conference about both backs. When questioned about Maroney's performance, Belichick told the media, "The backs ran hard." When asked about Taylor, though, Belichick was more descriptive of his time with the team this summer.
Maroneygate will live on for just another few hours.