Patriots-Giants Notebook: Thornton, Zappe Prove They Belong?
The New England Patriots drop their first preseason game of 2022 to the New York Giants, 23-21.
FOXBORO — Football is back in New England.
On Thursday evening, the New England Patriots welcomed the New York Giants to Gillette Stadium for their first preseason matchup of 2022.
With an eager crowd on hand to cheer on the hometown team, New England seized the opportunity to learn, improve and prepare for the upcoming season.
Highlights from the Patriots’ last-second loss to New York:
While many of the Patriots starters did not see action – including starting quarterback Mac Jones – nearly all members of the team were present and accounted for.
Right tackle Isaiah Wynn, tight end Dalton Keene and rookie offensive lineman Andrew Stueber (non-football injury list) were not spotted on the sidelines.
Patriots Drive of the Game:
To close the first quarter, veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer led the Pats on an eight-play, 55-yard drive, culminating in the first touchdown of the preseason. Rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton drew an illegal contact penalty on Giants safety Andrew Adams advancing the ball to midfield. Hoyer then connected deep with receiver Kristian Wilkerson on a 33-yard pass to the Giants’ 17-yard line.
Hoyer capped the drive with a 2-yard completion to Thornton, who ran a solid route to the back of the end zone and then improvised when his quarterback was forced to scramble. The rookie also showed some toughness by fighting off a would-be holding penalty from cornerback Aaron Robinson. Thornton logs the first touchdown of the Pats preseason, giving his team a 7-3 lead.
Having become the predominant story surrounding the team for nearly the entirety of the offseason, all eyes in Gillette Stadium were on the Patriots’ play-calling situation. Offensive line coach Matt Patricia appeared to be calling plays during Hoyer’s first two drives. When the veteran turned the team over to rookie Bailey Zappe, quarterbacks coach Joe Judge handled the majority of the duties. Head coach Bill Belichick and tight ends coach Nick Caley also spent significant time with the Pats offense.
While Hoyer was given the first two series, Zappe would take the ball for the remainder of the evening. In his first half of NFL action, the rookie completed just 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards, low-lighted by errant throws and a sack. However, the Western Kentucky product looked more comfortable in the second half, connecting with both Wilkerson and receiver Tre Nixon on a few impressive deep shots. In total, Zappe completed 19 of 32 for 205 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Despite the game being devoid of starters, left guard Cole Strange saw some action on the offensive line and made the most of his time on the field. The Chattanooga product showcased his size and speed early, contributing a pair of strong pushes against New York’s defensive linemen. Strange’s turn of Giants’ defensive end Jalyn Holmes helped to spring a 5-yard run by running back J.J. Taylor on the Patriots’ first scoring drive.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell continues to make his case for earning a spot at perimeter corner, working well in tandem with Malcolm Butler. Early in the second quarter, Mitchell forced a fumble after a completion to Giants’ receiver Collin Johnson. Mitchell’s versatility continues to allows him to blend into multiple schemes, any of which the Patriots may employ depending on their personnel in the upcoming season
Rookie Sam Roberts demonstrated impressive use of his 6-4, 287-pound frame in the first half. He impressively competed against New York’s blockers, registering a handful of pressures.
Cornerback Joejuan Williams struggled in coverage, yielding a touchdown to Giants’ receiver Richie James and later getting called for a facemask penalty after again being beat in coverage. Williams is clearly trailing much of his competition for a roster spot on the perimeter.
Patriots offensive linemen Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron and Bill Murray all exited the field in the second half, each apparently suffering leg injuries. All three players were able to walk off the field under their own power.