- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ preseason finale against the Giants, a 6-3 loss:
Starters sit this one out. With this being the third game in 10 days, Bill Belichick decided to rest all his starters outside of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who was making his preseason debut. Perhaps some of the big hits Tom Brady has taken were part of the decision-making process as well. It’s time to focus on the regular-season opener Sept. 9 at Tennessee.
Vollmer’s return gives hope to line. With starting left guard Logan Mankins returning last week, marking his first action since undergoing offseason ACL surgery, the Patriots got one of their key blockers up front back. Against the Giants, Vollmer saw his first action (he came off midway through the third drive), offering more hope to a line that has had some rough moments this preseason. Now if veteran right guard Brian Waters returns (his locker remains intact at Gillette Stadium), what looked like a trouble spot could become solidified.
Koppen fighting for a job. Center Dan Koppen has done some great things for the Patriots since 2003, but he is anything but a roster lock, as reflected by his presence in this game. The Patriots rotated four centers in the first half -- Ryan Wendell, Koppen, Dan Connolly and Donald Thomas. Who gets the job? This is one of the lingering questions facing the team.
Cunningham caps strong preseason. Facing a make-or-break preseason, third-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham likely prolonged his Patriots career with a strong showing from the opening of camp to the finale. He looked like the best defensive player on the field with two first-half sacks, although he later drew a holding penalty. He’s the third end behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
Koutouvides, Demps the lone injuries. Veteran linebacker Niko Koutouvides, who was vying for a roster spot as a core special-teamer, left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return. He was holding his right wrist as he came off the field. His status could affect the composition of the 53-man roster, which must be finalized Friday by 9 p.m. ET. Running back Jeff Demps also was having his knee looked at by the medical staff late in the fourth quarter.
A snoozer of a game. Tough product to watch. Some struggles for the replacement officials, too. Let’s acknowledge some of the valuable game experience that many young players received and then move on ... fast.