FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots put concerns to rest after they struggled in joint practices with the New Orleans Saints by winning their preseason opener 34-22 on Thursday night.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looked good, completing 11 of 18 passes for 168 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. A large chunk of those yards came on a 56-yard catch and run by running back James White. Garoppolo wasn’t helped out much by his offensive line, though, who allowed two sacks.
Despite the solid performance, Garoppolo didn’t quite crack our six stars of the game. Here’s who did.
LB JAMIE COLLINS
Collins had the first of two defensive scores for the Patriots. He snagged the ball out of the air for an interception after safety Patrick Chung forced a deflection. Collins ran down the left sideline and into the end zone for the score.
Collins had three tackles, including one for a loss, as he was active in the run and passing game at linebacker.
DE JABAAL SHEARD
The Patriots’ right defensive end looks primed for a strong season as he replaces Chandler Jones. Sheard consistently was in the backfield in the first quarter, and he forced a fumble that was recovered by Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones.
DE TREY FLOWERS
Flowers Waterboy’d Saints backup quarterback Luke McCown, leaping through the air for a strip sack. He then scooped up the ball for a fumble recovery touchdown.
Overall, he had six tackles, a quarterback hit and brought pressure from the edge and as an interior rusher. Flowers could be a key beneficiary of Rob Ninkovich’s torn triceps injury. He’s been dominant in training camp as a pass rusher and run defender. He has the versatility to play right or left defensive end and as a defensive tackle on obvious passing downs.
WR MALCOLM MITCHELL
The rookie wide receiver showed a ton of promise before leaving the game with a nasty elbow injury. He had four catches on five targets for 55 yards, showing off strong, quick hands and nice agility.
CB CRE’VON LEBLANC
LeBlanc pulled in an incredible one-handed interception in the third quarter. He saved a touchdown, and the Patriots scored three plays later, so it was a big swing in the (meaningless) game.
LeBlanc allowed just one 4-yard reception on four targets with a pass breakup.
RB TYLER GAFFNEY
Gaffney ripped off a 44-yard touchdown run in what was his first preseason game despite being drafted in 2014. He was placed on injured reserve early in training camp in both 2014 and 2015 after non-contact injuries.
Gaffney had nine carries for 64 yards and two catches for 7 yards on the night.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images