On the bright side, Patriots football is back. On the less bright side, not many of the Patriots we'll actually see most weekends were on the field when New England fell to the New York Giants 23-21 on Friday night.
While Bill Belichick and his coaching staff keep the starters fresh for joint practices against the Carolina Panthers next week, New England's reserves got a chance to compete for spots on the team going forward.
Here are a few things to take away from the night's action.
Tyquan Thornton is going to get real snaps in 2022.
The Patriots' second-round pick got a nice test in his first NFL action, drawing starting Giants cornerback Aaron Jones on his first two series.
Thornton roasted Robinson on a go-route and would've had a big gain if Brian Hoyer's throw had been on time and on target. Hoyer's late underthrow allowed Robinson to come back and break up the catch.
But the rookie got Robinson back in the red zone, shaking free from the cornerback's defensive holding penalty to notch his first touchdown.
He also got open on a deep route with Bailey Zappe in the game but got called for offensive pass interference trying to come back to the ball.
On top of that, Thornton blocked well in the run game, pushing a defender five yards downfield on an early carry by J.J. Taylor.
Might be time to start buying your Tyquan stocks, because they just keep going up.
The cornerback room might get really interesting.
Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell got the start for the Patriots at cornerback, and the veterans combined to force (Mitchell) and recover (Butler) a fumble in the second quarter to make up for a mixed bag in coverage by both.
More interesting, though, was the fact that neither Jonathan Jones nor Marcus Jones touched the field on Thursday night. Jones didn't even play a down of special teams, with Myles Bryant filling in -- quite well, in fact -- on punt returns.
That might well suggest New England might be rolling with Jonathan Jones more often as a primary outside corner opposite Jalen Mills with Marcus Jones potentially angling for starter snaps in the slot.
That trio has arguably played the most consistently good football out of the cornerback group, and Jonathan and Marcus Jones might be the two best corners on the team at covering the kinds of speed receivers the Patriots are likely to face in the division.
As for the other cornerbacks who played on Friday...let's just say the starters better not get hurt.
Mitchell (twice) and Shaun Wade both failed to find the football on fade routes along the sideline, with Wade getting plunked in the head on a ball he could've intercepted. He also dropped an interception later.
Joejuan Williams, meanwhile, had a brutal game, getting beaten multiple times (once for a touchdown) and dropping an interception of his own. A game like this feels like it could accelerate his exit from the team.
Play-calling controversy in the works?
When the offense took the field for its first few series with Brian Hoyer at the helm, do-it-all offensive coach Matt Patricia called plays as he has almost all training camp.
But sometime after Bailey Zappe took the field, the cameras and binoculars showed Joe Judge appearing to radio the plays in while Patricia paced and made notes with his trusty pencil.
Are the Patriots adding open auditions for the team's play-caller to their list of offensive eccentricities?
When the offense goes through walkthroughs in practice, Patricia typically calls plays for the first-team offense while Judge reads off the play sheet for the backup offense.
That's essentially the arrangement they used Friday.
That said, if Patricia's going to be calling the plays -- he's done so almost exclusively in team drills -- why not give him a whole game to get a feel for it?
As weird as this play-calling exchange feels, though, it probably won't mean anything if Patricia is back to running the show during joint practices this week, which is the most likely scenario.