New England Patriots Links 8/29/12 - Final Preseason Game vs. Giants Means Final Chance For Bubble Players

We'll most likely see Tom Brady under center tonight, but hopefully not under defenders.

Jeff Howe gives us five things to watch tonight against the Giants. .

1.Will Brady, starters play? Conventionally, the stars sit out the fourth preseason game, but the Patriots’ biggest stars took the night off in their second game. Then, against the Bucs, the front-line Pats had a difficult night. If Tom Brady [stats] and the starters play, consider it a message from Bill Belichick that he wants the players to perform better, even if it’s only for a series or two.

2. It’s time to Solder up. Regardless of who is at quarterback, the line needs to play better, and that’s nothing new. It’s one thing to assume things will improve when Logan Mankins [stats] and Sebastian Vollmer (and maybe Brian Waters) are back in the mix full time, but it’s another thing to see it, particularly from left tackle Nate Solder. It would be crazy to think the 2011 first-rounder just lost it overnight, but he has to be more consistent.

3. Mallett needs to finish strong. Ryan Mallett exceeded expectations last week, at least relative to his performance at the start of training camp and the preseason opener. He has looked more comfortable and aware in the last two games, completing 17-of-33 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns because he’s simply playing more than thinking. It’s important for the quarterback to finish strong, since the plan is for him to not take another snap until next August.

4. Clock’s ticking on the bubble. The Patriots haven’t run any elaborate schemes this preseason, particularly on defense, where they’ve just been squaring up and playing. So for anyone on the bubble, such as defensive end Trevor Scott, it’ll be up to them to turn heads by winning their one-on-one matchups and making plays. That can lead to some good, emotional action in the second half when guys on the bottom of the depth chart feel the clock ticking.

5. Rookies get another crack. Two of the Patriots’ most intriguing rookies made their debuts last week, but they were kind of just thrown right into it. That’s more true of running back Jeff Demps, who only practiced twice before the game, but he could get more reps tonight with the added experience. Alfonzo Dennard had been out with an injury, and the cornerback depth chart is crowded. He’s got skill, but he needs to have a good finale tonight against the Giants.

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