- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Take nothing away from receiver Brian Tyms, who had a big second half in the Patriots’ preseason opener, but he essentially had a free release at the line of scrimmage on all four catches in the final quarter – 53 yards, 11 yards, 15 yards and 26 yards. First-year cornerback Peyton Thompson of San Jose State was in coverage and Tyms really took it to him. A next step for Tyms will be to prove he can effectively and consistently get off the jam.
2. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo checked off a few boxes in this game, showing a nice touch on the deep ball, getting the ball out quickly, leading the huddle while adjusting to ever-evolving situations, executing in the two-minute offense and also using his legs when needed. His 9-yard scramble, which ended up with a not-so-pretty slide, was evidence of his athleticism and running ability.
3. Third-year linebacker Darius Fleming’s potential versatility showed up as he played an off-the-line role in the nickel for a few snaps. Most of Fleming’s action in the game came in an end-of-the-line role, and although still a linebacker role, the responsibilities are different between the two. While playing off the line, Fleming didn’t shed a block while playing downhill on Lache Seastrunk’s 19-yard run before making up for it on the next play by attacking the line of scrimmage and tackling Seastrunk on a 3-yard run. Fleming’s potential to back up both spots could give him an edge for a roster spot.
4. Cornerback Malcolm Butler’s willingness to tackle showed up when he cut down Seastrunk on a 3-yard run. The Patriots like their corners to be strong in run support and Butler (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) showed he’s not shy about throwing his body around. Impressive all-around effort from Butler in this game.
5. Second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan’s sack of Colt McCoy came as a result of getting an excellent jump at the snap, and then bending around left tackle Morgan Moses with an effective dip of his inside left shoulder. Buchanan sometimes raced too far up the field in 2013, leaving an open running lane for quarterbacks like Geno Smith and Andy Dalton, and it looked like it might be a similar issue on the play in which he sacked McCoy on Thursday night. But Buchanan’s bend and second effort was rewarded with the sack.
6. One positive from this viewpoint was the play of rookie right guard Jon Halapio and rookie right tackle Cameron Fleming. While they’ve taken some lumps in one-on-one drills in practice, both seemed to hold their ground in game action more often than not, with Fleming delivering a few big blocks in the run game.
7. Undrafted rookie linebacker Deontae Skinner (Mississippi State) is a downhill thumper in the run game, and he delivered a nice play, surging through the line to drop Seastrunk for a 3-yard loss on fourth down to turn the ball back to the offense for the Patriots’ lone touchdown drive of the game. Skinner is a practice-squad candidate at a position where the Patriots’ depth behind starters Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower looks a bit thin.
Recapping the preseason opener