Patriots' backup QB spot in good hands with Jimmy Garoppolo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick played it safe with many of his top players in Thursday's 31-24 preseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which provided him an opportunity to get a more thorough evaluation of some of the club's younger players.

That guy could start: Despite playing without the team's top skill-position threats, and behind any of the club's projected starting offensive linemen, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo showed well. His trademark quick release was on display, and his accuracy was mostly on point. He finished 22-of-28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns, playing until midway through the third quarter and picking up where he left off from his impressive fill-in duty at the start of the 2016 regular season. The bottom line: The Patriots' No. 2 quarterback job is in good hands.

A night for the backups: Belichick felt the Patriots' top players got in good work in joint practices with the Jaguars over two days, so he wanted to take a closer look at the team's younger players. Among those who didn't play included quarterback Tom Brady; tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen; receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks; defensive end Trey Flowers; defensive tackle Malcom Brown; cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore; and safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. From a have-to-fix-it perspective, three big scoring plays against the Patriots' defense were three too many. Cornerback Cyrus Jones (coverage on both a 97-yard TD pass and 42-yard TD pass), linebacker Elandon Roberts (caught in traffic on 79-yard TD run) and safety Jordan Richards (bad angle on 79-yard TD run; late safety help on 42-yard TD pass) appeared to be the primary culprits who contributed to those plays.

Wise leaves with head injury: Promising defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr., a fourth-round draft pick from Arkansas, left the game early in the second quarter with a head injury. Wise had remained on the ground and required attention from the team's medical staff, which led some to speculate he might have suffered a concussion. Wise had worked his way up the depth chart as a potential option to replace the retired Rob Ninkovich, and this could stunt his momentum. He also battled through multiple injuries at Arkansas.

One reason to be concerned: The Patriots' thinnest position entering the game was defensive end, and Wise's head injury further depletes the unit. Ninkovich's retirement and Kony Ealy's shakier-than-anticipated transition to the club likely has the Patriots considering potential options to bolster the position.

Rookie watch: Undrafted Austin Carr (Northwestern), who was the Big Ten receiver of the year in 2016, made one of the plays of the game with a leaping 3-yard touchdown along the back of the end zone. Carr ran an in-breaking route to initially shake free before coming down with the football delivered by Garoppolo in traffic. Also, undrafted tight end Jacob Hollister (Wyoming) made a case for a chance to work against better competition, catching the ball well and showing toughness across the middle.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Patriots looked ...: We never had the chance to see this matchup because Belichick held out almost all of his top players.

QB depth chart: This is solidified, with Brady, then Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. This was the first chance to get an extended look at Garoppolo since the start of the 2016 regular season when he played well for six quarters before suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out of action. Brissett, who entered with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter, might still be fighting for a roster spot.