One last chance for players on the roster bubble to make an impression
The Patriots and Giants will meet on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in the final preseason tilt for each team. The game will be televised locally on WBZ –TV with Dan Roche and Christian Fauria in the booth and Matt Chatham handling sideline duties.
While many of the established veterans will play sparingly if at all on Thursday, it is a final time for some of the players on the roster bubble to make a push to make the team.
For the Patriots, a couple of players will be making their debut, including QB Ryan Lindley as well as WR DeVaris Daniels and WR/KR Jalen Saunders. Here are four things we’ll be watching for this week:
Offensive Line Asserting Itself: Due to injuries and roster turnover the Patriots have started three rookies in the interior offensive line with center David Andrews, flanked by guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson.
The results haven’t always been pretty inside; the line gave up seven sacks against Green Bay although their pass protection has improved since then. A couple of things to watch for will be the communication of the interior with the picking up of blitzes and stunts, something they’ll see more of now that the season is approaching.
But the run blocking has to improve; the unit hasn’t been able to run effectively when the opponent knows they’re going to run. This is an area that can be really improved upon. Getting the big backs, LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray to the second level is imperative for the running game to click.
And Andrews, an UDFA from Georgia has been playing pretty well in lieu of Bryan Stork and is battling for a roster spot.
Wide Receiver Newcomers: Last week the Patriots signed veteran WR Reggie Wayne and he had very little time at practice before he played just 21 snaps against the Panthers, not registering a catch. He’ll be looking to improve upon that first week performance this time around against the Giants.
This week, two other newcomers, WR/KR Jalen Saunders and WR DeVaris Daniels will be looked to for depth but also to show what they were able to pick up in a very short week. With the injuries piling up at WR, they should all see some significant snaps.
Rookie Chris Harper, who has had a nice summer and leads the team with 13 receptions in the preseason as well as some nice returns in the kicking game, will be looking to earn a roster spot.
Aaron Dobson is definitely a player to watch this week; while I think he’ll still make the roster, he’s not a lock yet and will need to show that he’s a big target that can be relied upon in the passing game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played late into this game.
Tight End Depth: The Patriots top two tight ends are locked in with Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. After that the competition is still open between Michael Hoomanawanui, Asante Cleveland and TE/T Michael Williams.
Hooman has the inside track but both Cleveland and Williams have the ability to wrest control of that final spot away. Williams is an intriguing case as he was a converted TE that the Lions used as a tackle. The 6’6, 305 pounder has been playing both for the Patriots thus far and a little versatility never hurts.
Cleveland at 6’6, 260 is a bit more of a pass catcher than either Hooman or Williams and he’ll be given plenty of reps this week to show what he can do. With the loss of FB James Develin, who at times filled in at tight end, there is an opportunity for someone to step up and earn a roster spot this week.
Secondary Depth: The Patriots seemed to have settled on a starting pair of corners with Malcolm Butler and Tarel Brown. But things are wide open after that and with the release of Jimmy Jean and the loss of Darryl Roberts on IR, depth is an issue.
Veterans Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Logan Ryan are all vying for spots with Daxton Swanson and the question remains, who will they keep?
Fletcher has been playing better lately with a couple of nice pass breakups during the past two games. Ryan was penciled in as a starter in the spring but has had a rather poor summer and truthfully may need an impressive performance to stick. McClain and Swanson have had their moments this preseason, so this game is very important.
The top four safeties are locked with Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon and rookie Jordan Richards. But Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are locked into a battle for the final safety slot. Wilson has shown up more on defense but Ebner has been a standout special teamer. Who stays? Mike Reiss from ESPN thinks they both will, and that the Patriots will keep all six safeties.
Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll keep you informed on the latest roster moves as they occur and give you our analysis from the game on Thursday night.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Preseason 2015 NFL Season 2015 Patriots Training Camp 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots Training Camp Photos Shaq Mason Tom Brady Tre' Jackson