Tonight, the New England Patriots are on the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium at 7:30 PM EST, in their second pre-season game of the season.

Bill Belichick did not play many starters in their first pre-season game. Will we see more familiar faces against Tampa Bay? There are certainly plenty of reasons to watch this game.

In their first pre-season game, the Patriots definitely knocked some rust off of their game. It wasn’t pretty at times, but it certainly was a dominant performance as the Patriots beat the Jaguars 47-12 last Thursday at Gillette Stadium.

However, many Patriots starters did not play including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. I have a feeling many of these players will play some kind of role in this next game.

There shouldn’t be a shortage of reasons to tune in. I know I want to see further development of the defense. Secondly, if Brady does play, it will be interesting to see where the offense stands, as we continue to build up for the opening game on the road against Miami. Also, many players are continuing to battle for positions on the team. With all that said, Here are my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers.”

It should be interesting to see Brady and the offense for the first time tonight against the Bucs. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1.Will there be chemistry right away between Chad Ochocinco and Tom Brady? If these players are starting the game, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brady get Ochocinco involved in the game right away. I am curious to see what type of routes Ochocinco runs, and to see is he already has a connection with Brady.

As we have found out, not all wide receivers can pick up this timing offense. I don’t think Ochocinco will go down the path of Donald Hayes or Joey Galloway. However, I would like to see Thursday if Brady and Ochocinco are on the same page. This might be a very important reason to watch.

2. Will Andre Carter and Mark Anderson be able to get after the quarterback? The defensive ends in the Patriots defense could have a vital role this season, and that is putting pressure on the quarterback. Anderson definitely showed a burst of speed last week against the Jaguars. I will be curious to see how he gets after the quarterback this week.

Reportedly, Carter has been very impressive in training camp. He has 66 career sacks. Two seasons ago he had 11.5 sacks for the Redskins. Last season he only had 2.5 sacks as the Redskins changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. I will be watching to see if Carter still has the ability to fly off the edge, and get after the quarterback in the Patriots 4-3 defense.

3. How will Brandon Meriweather play at safety? Reportedly, during one of the practices this week, he was splitting snaps at safety with Sergio Brown.

Meriweather could be on the hot seat, and it will be interesting to watch how he responds Thursday night, after an interesting week of practice. Meriweather has been an average safety for the Patriots, and unfortunately has been inconsistent. Will he rise to the occasion against the Bucs? Well, I will be watching for the former University of Miami player Thursday night.

4. How will Jerod Mayo play in this new look Patriots defense? If the Patriots do move to play more 4-3 this season, where will Mayo line up? Reportedly, he has been playing weak side linebacker in this alignment.

It will be fascinating to see if he becomes even a more active linebacker at this position in this defense. Will he be getting after the quarterback more? The role of Mayo this season intrigues me, and hopefully we will get a taste of what to expect.

5. Will Ryan Mallett continue to progress in his development as a quarterback? Mallett was quite impressive in his first game under center with the Patriots. He threw for 164 yards, and completed 12 out of 19 passes. He also threw one touchdown pass.

However, it was his command of the offense, and how comfortable he looked in the pocket that really stood out. I will be watching to see if he can build on that performance. Reportedly, he was taking snaps in practice during one of the practices right after Brady. Could he possibly be moving up the depth chart? With the Patriots you just never know, but he will be a reason to watch against the Bucs.

As always there are going to be other reasons to check out this game. You could certainly focus on Stevan Ridley, to see if he continues to develop at running back. You could also watch Dane Fletcher to see if he has another impact performance at linebacker.

I don’t think fans are going to have a shortage of reasons to watch the Patriots in pre-season this year. Getting ready for the new season continues this Thursday night against the Buccaneers.