Jimmy Garoppolo, Malcolm Butler Among Patriots Stars Of Preseason Opener

Jimmy GaroppoloJimmy Garoppolo won over some New England Patriots fans in his preseason debut.

The rookie quarterback was one of the lone bright spots for the Patriots in Thursday night’s 23-6 loss to the Washington Redskins. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown in the second half after “starting” quarterback Ryan Mallett struggled in the first two quarters.

Garoppolo played much better in his first NFL game than he has throughout organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. Garoppolo has struggled in practice, but really turned it on, especially on his deep passes, showing nice touch on completions to third-year pro Brian Tyms.

Garoppolo also showed an ability make plays with his feet, both by scrambling and with his pocket presence, avoiding pressure.

It will be interesting to see if Garoppolo can keep this up throughout the preseason. If he continues to shine in games, then he could steal the backup job from Mallett, who was supposed to be auditioning for NFL teams against the Redskins.

Check out the rest of the Patriots’ stars from the first game of the preseason:

Cornerback Malcolm Butler: The undrafted rookie cornerback out of West Alabama was targeted early and often, as he lined up with the first-team defense, and he responded well. Butler stuck with wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Ryan Grant and was able to get his hands on the ball multiple times. He has been impressive in training camp, and that carried over to his in-game performance. Right now, it looks like Butler has the inside track for the No. 5 cornerback role while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension.

Linebacker Darius Fleming: Belichick praised Fleming’s ability to play inside and outside linebacker last week. He showcased his run-stopping ability while playing outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 on Thursday night. Fleming was a fifth-round pick by the 49ers in 2012, and he’s been slowed by multiple knee injuries. Fleming still looks to have plenty of potential in the NFL.

Wide receiver Brian Tyms: Tyms had some really nice moments for the Patriots, especially with Garoppolo under center. Tyms caught five passes on six targets for 119 yards with a touchdown. It should be noted that it’s logical that Tyms looked better than his fellow third-string wide receivers and the Redskins’ defense, since he has been in the league for two seasons, and he was mostly going up against undrafted rookies.

Safety Tavon Wilson: The Patriots gave equal opportunity to Wilson and fellow safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung, all of whom were auditioning for the starting strong safety role. Wilson was effective against the run, which should be appealing to the Patriots as they look for an in-the-box defender. Chung also played well in his first game back with the Patriots while Harmon mostly stayed back, playing free safety.

Mallett wasn’t the only player who struggled in the Patriots’ first preseason game. Rookie running back Roy Finch fumbled a kickoff, bobbled a punt and missed an easy pass from Mallett. Rookie safety Travis Swanson, trying out a new position, took a couple of bad angles on passing and running plays. Linebacker Steve Beauharnais also had some questionable moments, biting on play action in coverage.

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