Football is back.
After a hectic two weeks of post-lockout offseason-type stuff, the Patriots are set to take the field at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 PM ET to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for the team's first preseason game. To be honest, I don't really care what the Jaguars are bringing to the table in this one. The game is unlikely to be much more than a glorified scrimmage. That being said, from a Patriots standpoint, there are some very interesting things to watch for:
1. The Patriots Base Defense. Yeah, this is probably the most obvious thing to look out for, but who cares, it's really dang interesting. Tomorrow night's game will be the first chance to look at what type of personnel the Patriots put out on the field defensively. Will the 4-3 be the team's base package? How much 3-4 will the Patriots work in? Who will be the primary defensive backs and linebackers in sub-packages? From a defensive standpoint, the Patriots have a lot of unknowns at this point. While we can't expect many questions to be answered tomorrow night, we might get a few.
2. How will the new pass rushers fit in? Over the past few weeks, the Patriots have added Andre Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Gerard Warren, Mark Anderson, and Shaun Ellis into the mix as veteran defensive lineman that could assist the team's pass rush. While we are unlikely to see the debut's of Ellis or Haynesworth, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson should both play. Both are presumably fighting for a roster spot.
3. Where are the rookies at in their development? I'm particularly intrigued to see where Stevan Ridley is at. He's see a lot of reps in camp due to the injury situation at running back, and has taken advantage of them for the most part. Will he be able to translate that positive momentum into a game experience? Ryan Mallett, Nate Solder, and Lee Smith should all also make their debuts as well. Solder has only been around for a few days, but should see playing time. Mallett has been improving with his accuracy as of late. Lee Smith has impressed in camp, so it should be interesting to see what he can bring to the table.
Two more things to watch for after the jump!
4. Will the first team offense get in the groove? Tom Brady and the first team offense will likely get to play the first quarter tomorrow, and get a few cracks at the Jaguar's revamped defense. Chad Ochocinco will likely make his debut, which should add to the excitement. But the thing I'm looking at is to see if the offense can get in a groove. As a whole, the first team offense has been inconsistent during training camp. If they can put together a couple of scoring drives, that will be a really positive sign.
5. Blaine Gabbert making his debut. While I said I don't really care about what the Jaguars are bringing to the game, this storyline is certainly interesting. With starter David Garrard sidelined with a back injury, rookie first round pick Blaine Gabbert will start for the Jags. Hopefully, the Patriots don't let Gabbert celebrate his debut too much.