EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England Coach Bill Belichick has tended to rest as many starters as possible in the Patriots’ final preseason game through the years. Thursday’s game against the New York Giants will be no different.
Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round draft pick from Eastern Illinois, will make his first start at quarterback for the Patriots at MetLife Stadium. He has pushed Ryan Mallett for the job of backing up Tom Brady.
Garoppolo has completed 24 of 37 passes for 334 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the first three games.
“I think the experience for Jimmy will be one that will just be good for him, going through the whole process,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he’ll learn a lot.”
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn’t played a preseason game after ACL and MCL surgery on his right knee in January and is unlikely to play Thursday.
The game is important for players on the roster bubble. The final cut from 75 players to 53 must be completed by Saturday.
“It’s a big game for me,” said Patriots defensive end Michael Buchanan, a seventh-round pick a year ago. “It’s a big game for a lot of the younger guys here. It’s the last test to prove ourselves so definitely it’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The Patriots (2-1) are coming off a pair of wins in Foxborough against Carolina (30-7) last week and Philadelphia (42-35) two weeks ago.
The Giants, meanwhile, will play their fifth preseason game Thursday, having played in the Hall of Fame game in early August.
Despite a 4-0 mark, New York Coach Tom Coughlin isn’t giving his starters a break when they meet the Patriots in the preseason finale for the 10th straight year.
Quarterback Eli Manning and the offense, which has scored two touchdowns in the last three preseason games, are going to get about 18 snaps against the defending AFC East champions. The Patriots will be looking for their 12th division title in 14 years.
“The only thing that matters is the regular season,” Coughlin said when asked if the Giants’ first undefeated preseason since 2006 would mean anything. “What is important about preseason is improvement, production and feeling like people are in the right spots. That is the only thing I can attest to.”
In any other year, Coughlin wouldn’t be happy playing an extended preseason schedule. But the Giants have missed the postseason the past two years, and there’s been a lot of turnover and changes, highlighted by a newly installed West Coast offense under the guidance of former Packers assistant Ben McAdoo.
“We needed the work,” said Coughlin, whose team went 7-9 last season after an 0-6 start. “We needed to be out here together, too.”
The Giants also have players on the bubble, including former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, who is looking to keep a roster spot earned in 2011 after beating cancer.
“That’s just how it is,” Herzlich said. “The more things you can do the better, that’s how it is. Everyone is trying to get a job.”