1. Wes Welker's participation. The recovering wide receiver fully participated in joint practices with the Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday, opening the possibility that he suits up for the preseason opener. The Patriots have not had live tackling in practice, other than at the goal-line, so if Welker suits up for the preseason opener it would mark another step in his progression. Bill Belichick was noncommittal Wednesday when asked if Welker will play. [+] EnlargeTom Brady AP Photo/Winslow TownsonThere's been no indication that Tom Brady's contract uncertainty will affect his playing time on Thursday.
3. Brandon Spikes in the middle. The late-second-round draft choice was moved into the starting lineup on the fourth day of training camp when Gary Guyton was sidelined with a knee injury and has been there since. He's a big presence next to Jerod Mayo, and Belichick seems intrigued by his instincts and feel for the game. Mayo also likes what he sees, but cautioned not to read too much into things at this point. "He's a good player. I knew that when he was at Florida and I was at Tennessee," Mayo said. "He's stepped in and done a nice job so far, but we haven't really done too much. Ask me that question after some games."
Ian Rapoport offers five things to watch in the Patriots/Saints game tonight.
2. How line fares without Mankins
Talking about the sit-out being performed by disgruntled Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins [stats] is one thing. But watching the line without him is the real test for the Patriots and for his leverage. With Nick Kaczur (back) out, it’s up to reserve Dan Connolly to key the run-blocking. If Connolly is as physical as Mankins, perhaps the veteran’s gripes fall on deaf ears. But if the line looks out of sync or soft, it only increases the urgency to strike a deal.
Christopher Price offers what to watch for in the preseason opener.
4. The Patriots pass rush. New England struggled to put consistent pressure on the quarterback last season. Now, without Derrick Burgess, the Patriots' only dynamic pass rusher is outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. Rookie Jermaine Cunningham has seen a lot of time with the No. 1 defense at the outside linebacker spot opposite Banta-Cain, and if he is able to flash some pass-rushing skills this preseason, it would go a long way toward ensuring he will get more reps at the spot during the 2010 season. In that same vein, if the pass rush struggles on Thursday, does New England step up its efforts to land someone like Aaron Schobel or Adewale Ogunleye in an attempt to right the ship?
- Erik Scalavino reports Belichick lauds the joint sessions and offers news and notes from the 22nd practice of the Patriots' 2010 training camp.
- Andy Hart wraps up Practice 22.
- Paul Perillo reports Sam Cunningham, the newest member of the Hall at Patriot Place, was on hand for practice on Wednesday and addressed the team briefly at the end of the workout.
- Post-Practice Quotes: Patriots and Saints.
- Patriots Today - What to watch for Thursday night. (4.36 min. video)
- Locker Room Uncut: Final comments from joint practices with the Saints. (3.08 min. video)
- Patriots Today - Brees' take on the Pats. (1.15 min. video)
- Transcript: Sam Cunningham interview.
- Bill Belichick Press Conference (15 min. video) Plus Transcript.
- Mike Rodak files some of his observations from Wednesday morning’s practice, the third and final joint practice with the Saints.
- Shalise Manza Young offers some quick hits from Wednesday's half-speed practice that focused on situational play.
- Karen Guregian predicts the Patriots rookie tight ends will annoy opponents.
- Mark Farinella previews the Patriots-Saints preseason game tonight.
- Karen Guregian spotlights what most of the media avoids - How hard Randy Moss works in the offseason to keep his body in shape and performing better each year. Here's Moss' training schedule (Dear Lord!).
- Ian Rapoport notes the Patriots secondary have been working on communicating better and talking on the field about the coverages they see.
- DJ Bean sees Terrence Wheatley getting more physical and proving his worth.
- Danny Picard sees Terrence Wheatley still battling for a roster spot.
- Monique Walker says Patriots LB Marques Murrell returned to practice after being overheated yesterday.
- Albert Breer discusses the Pro Football Focus article that takes an analytical look at the situation involving Logan Mankins that concludes the Patriots should pay the man.
- Karen Guregian gets former Patriot Randall Gay's quick impressions of the Patriots offense.
- Mark Farinella catches up with former Patriot Heath Evans, who's had the best of both worlds in his career.
- Ian Rapoport notes former Patriot Heath Evans has been ringing up the man hugs in Foxboro, and his Saints teammates have been keeping count.
- Tom E. Curran looks at the Hard Knocks life of the NY Jets.
- Kirk Minihane keeps a Hard Knocks diary and shares his thoughts on the 'heavy' first episode.
- Mike Reiss talks about rookie TE Aaron Hernandez and his much-anticipated preseason debut. (40 second video)
- how his defense is progressing. (45 second video) says Thursday night's Patriots-Saints matchup should give Bill Belichick an idea of
- Christopher Gasper and Albert Breer discuss Tom Brady's contract status, and former number 39 RB Sam Bam Cunningham's talk with Laurence Maroney after practice Wednesday. (5.12 min. video)
- Michael Felger is the only guy who could come away with reading Michael Silver's Tom Brady column in Yahoo! Sports and see proof of a disconnect.
- Michael Silver (Yahoo! Sports) Patriots' Brady gets down to business.
- Matt Bowen (Nat'l Football Post) The value of the NFL joint practice in August. More teams should follow the lead of the Saints and Patriots.
- Khaled Elsayed (Pro Football Focus) Should they pay or should he go? Logan Mankins.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) Cunningham: Maroney must find a way.
- Tim Graham (ESPN) Maroney on Jets: 'Ain't time to be funny.'
- Michael McCann (SI) NFL and NFLPA need to take closer look at possible painkiller abuse.