Tonight, the New England Patriots are home to face the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 PM EST, in their fourth pre-season game of the year.

In the fourth pre-season game, typically you see the starters on a very limited basis. I expect both the Patriots and the Giants regulars to see very little if any action at all in this game. Even though the Patriots had a poor performance against the Lions, I don’t see Coach Belichick risking injury to his starters in this match-up

However, believe it or not, I feel there are still some very good reasons to tune in. We could get our first look at some rookie players that have not been in a game as of yet. There are also a few interesting positional battles still going on. With that said, Here are my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Giants.”

How will Ras-I Dowling fare tonight against New York? (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1. How will Ras-I Dowling look in his first game at cornerback? Dowling is a second round draft pick from the University of Virginia. He is a tall corner at 6 feet and 2 inches, and has the potential to offer something a little different at that position with his build.

I will be watching to see if he is physical, and also has those cover skills that every corner needs. It will be interesting to see what type of potential this player has at a very crucial position.

2. Will we see progress from rookie running backs Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen? Ridley has been impressive so far in pre-season. He has ran for 148 yards, and has an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Granted most of that has been against backups, but he has shown some serious ability so far. I will be watching to see if he continues to improve.

Vereen has been out all of pre-season, but could be making his debut against the Giants. He is a second round draft pick from California, and has a great deal of potential. I am hoping we see some of his ability against the Giants.

3. Will Ryan Mallett show improvement in this game? Mallett, in his first pre-season game game against Jacsonville showed great promise. He was 12-19 for 164 yards and 1 touchdown. However, he did take a step back in the Bucaneers game which makes me wonder which direction will he go against New York tonight.

4. The battle continues at the 4th wide receiver position. Taylor Price was impressive in the first pre-season game, but in the last game against the Lions he did not have a catch. Will he bounce back against the Giants?

Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate really haven’t shown much yet in pre-season. This is their last chance to impress the coaches. I really think Tate is seriously on the bubble to making the team.

5. The Defensive Lineman have their last chance to make an impression. The Patriots have a good amount of defensive lineman, and probably some of them will be cut. I will be focused on Mark Anderson and Gerard Warren.

Anderson at times has looked impressive from the defensive end position. However, Andre Carter I feel has been better. Anderson has an opportunity tonight to make one last impression.

Warren has had a good pre-season as well at defensive tackle. However, with Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth also at his position, will he be squeezed out? In this game he will have one last chance to show what he can offer.

The fourth pre-season game can be a tough one to watch, but this year might be a little different. I definitely believe there are some intriguing reasons to watch as we will see some rookies, as well as the positional battles for the final roster spots. 

We’ve only got one more to go, and getting ready for the 2011 season continues tonight against the Giants.