Aug 20, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is tackled by New England Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham (96) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Vick was injured on the play. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

New England Patriots and New York Giants Game Thoughts

The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 6-3 in a game that saw over 20 key Patriots not playing, including both starting safeties and all three starting linebackers. The Pats also gave their top three running backs, top four receivers, and top two tight ends a night off. In all, the final preseason game was a snoozefest.

The fact that the Patriots did not play cornerback Marquice Cole shows that he’s locked in to a roster spot after vaulting his stock with his performance in Friday’s preseason game.

The most impressive player for the Pats on the night was defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, who has clearly been the team’s most productive pass rusher this preseason. He drew a holding penalty and added two sacks and three quarterback hits. Cunningham has certainly locked up a roster spot, and I have no idea why such a high-upside pass rusher- his good rookie year flew under the radar- was considered to be on the bubble.

The battle at center was in full focus, and the fact that Dan Koppen was only in for ten plays is being viewed with mixed reactions. At this point, I’m maintaining the stance I held before this preseason game and throughout the preseason; Koppen leaves if Brian Waters comes back. If not, he’s most likely staying. I will say this, Koppen played at a high level in his limited snaps but was outperformed by Dan Connolly (no big news there). Also, Donald Thomas continues to rise and had an assured display in this one.

It was nice to see Sebastian Vollmer back, and he did a great job upon his debut. He was clearing out defensive ends and linebackers and getting to the second level regularly. His pass blocking was also solid, and Vollmer looks like he’s back after an ankle injury that hurt his play last year. He should be back to his fringe All-Pro self, but he needs to stay healthy. If he goes down, then the Patriots line will be in trouble with Marcus Cannon starting at right tackle. Cannon simply isn’t ready, but there is no need to be frightened about this line with Vollmer healthy.

While Ryan Mallett’s stat line of 8-15 for 40 yards was underwhelming, he looks more comfortable out there as his snaps have increased in the preseason in his first legitimate offseason.

Brandon Bolden received his most action to date with 59 yards on 15 carries and was able to catch three passes. He looked good and showed some versatility in an all-around solid performance that states his case for a roster spot. Fullback Eric Kettani rushed for 12 yards on four carries and caught all three passes thrown towards him in a great game, and both stated their claims to make the roster. It’s up to the Pats coaching staff to choose fullback or fifth running back.

Before leaving the game due to an injury (not serious), Jeff Demps was terrific playing behind the third-stringers with three catches for 31 yards.

As for the bubble guys, I wouldn’t consider Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard, and Trevor Scott bubble players. These guys have played themselves into roster spots. Mike Rivera is a guy who I have doubted, but he looked great last night by leading the team in tackles with 12 and adding two tackles for loss. Jeff Tarpinian may have had one less tackle than Niko Koutouvides, but he had one more solo tackle and added a tackle for loss; he was the better player. Tarpinian has stated his case to make the roster above him.

James Ihedigbo is gone. He’s just too one-dimensional at this point due to his inability to cover. Plus, Ebner is a beast on special teams and has looked better this offseason. He also has more upside and clearly deserves a roster spot.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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