By: Jake Mackey
Football is finally upon us, sort of. The New England Patriots will play in their first preseason game Thursday night at Gillette Stadium against the New Orleans Saints. It has been reported that neither Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, or Rob Gronkowski will play, as expected. The two teams have conducted joint practices the past two days, therefore the starters received a lot of reps there, and this game is for evaluating fringe roster players and rookies. Although Drew Brees is expected to play at least a series. As a Patriots fan, you may be wondering who half the players on the field are tonight. Therefore, here are some key players and positions to keep an eye out for in preseason game one.
Quarterbacks: Jimmy Garoppolo will have the microscope on him more than ever before in this game for obvious reasons. The most important thing to remember is to not compare Jimmy to Brady, because you will be disappointed. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly, is he accurate enough, how is his command at the line of scrimmage, is he putting the ball in harms way, are some simple things to look for that you can evaluate Garoppolo fairly with.
In addition, Jacoby Brissett will also get his first NFL game action. Unless you have been under a rock the past two weeks, you have probably heard that Brissett has had a horrendous training camp thus far. However, if you can remember back to two years ago the same was said of Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie and he went out the first preseason game against Washington and lit it up. I will be watching Brissett more closely than Garoppolo, because there is a better chance that Brissett is the next franchise quarterback.
Offensive Line: The offensive line was the reason for the 2015 Patriots demise, and with Dante Scarnecchia back at the helm there is high expectations for the unit. Something important to watch for in the first preseason game is the offensive line pairings. I would not expect starting tackles Nate Solder or Sebastian Vollmer to play, therefore we can get a good look at LaAdrian Waddle, and yes Marcus Cannon. Furthermore, rookie Joe Thuney has received very high praise during camp and is expected to be one of the starting guards come week one. The center position also has a heated battle going on between Bryan Stork and David Andrews.
Cyrus Jones and other corner backs: Cyrus Jones should have the nickel back position on lock for week one, but so far in camp he has not lived up to the hype. If he is beat out for the job by the likes of Justin Coleman and EJ Biggers, there should be some real concern about that draft pick. Jones had a solid couple of days of joint practices, and he will for sure have plenty of reps in this first game to prove himself. Also, a veteran like Biggers who is a fringe player will also get plenty of reps. He has been solid these past two weeks and should have a spot on the roster if he keeps it up. Darryl Roberts is also a player who had high expectations throughout the summer because of his solid camp last summer before getting injured. So far this year he has been sub-par, and will need a good outing against New Orleans to make this roster.