As the preseason comes to a merciful close with yet another Patriots vs. Giants finale, I'm desperately looking for some tidbit that will even get me remotely excited for the game tonight. I have fully admitted several times that I put way too much stock in the preseason and overanalyze games way more than I should, but even I know that the final week of August is as big a throwaway week as it gets, and so it's tough to get myself fired up for this one. Of course I'm still going to watch it, and of course I'm going to get nice and hydrated while watching it, but it just won't be the same. I suppose I should take advantage of the last Patriots game of 2013 that isn't likely to leave me a sweaty, nervous, exhausted mess at the end of it, but what's the fun in that?
And while this game is only slightly more worthwhile than Ron Borges's credibility as an objective reporter to most of us, for a fair number of players tonight represents their absolute last chance to make a good impression on the coaches and secure themselves a roster spot. In a game that will be played mostly by backups, it's easy to lose track of who is lined up where and whether or not we should be concerned that last year's 2nd round pick is still chasing down 4th string receivers in the 4th quarter. So here are a few of the more notable bubble players that I'll be keeping an eye on tonight.
Jake Bequette. In limited action thus far, Bequette has done nothing to stand out or make a strong case for his place on the roster. In game action last week, he looked lost, hesitant, slow, and easily burned by Detroit's scrub team. Granted, pretty much everyone on the Patriots' non-starting defense looked like I'm going to smell after this game is over, but I think we're at the point where last year's 3rd round pick should be in position to start making some plays. I ultimately say Bequette will stick around this year, as he was drafted too high and is a little too new in the league to be dropped altogether, but hopefully he does a lot more to make his case tonight. There's definitely a chance that the Patriots try to sneak him past waivers and land him on the practice squad, but there's obviously a lot of risk in that.
Adrian Wilson/Leon Washington. I lump these two guys together mainly because I think that their roster spots are relatively secure. Perhaps if one or both are seen playing well into the 2nd half tonight, I'll be singing a different tune this time tomorrow, but at the moment, I have both Wilson and Washington on my final 53. What I'm more interested in is exactly how the Patriots play each man; neither player has had much of an impact this preseason and this last game might be the coaches' final chance to figure out where exactly they will be the biggest asset to the team. Wilson's spot is a little more secure in my opinion, but overall I think both of these guys stick.
Marquice Cole. Cole has the advantage of being a special teams contributor, and now that Ras-IR Dowling has limped out of Gillette Stadium for the last time, the DB depth chart becomes a little more interesting. Other than locks Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Devin McCourty, and Logan Ryan, the picture gets kind of murky. And while I have yet to see Cole solidify himself as anything other than a special teamer and stopgap corner, perhaps he can make a case for himself tonight.
Brandon Bolden. A lot of people have Bolden making the team because of his hard, downfield running style as well as his special teams value, but I'm not so sure. LeGarrette Blount has done everything he can this preseason to illustrate why he deserves a spot on the team, and quite simply he has looked much better than Bolden on both the short yardage plays as well as the opportunities for long runs. I imagine we'll see something of a revolving door at RB as the game goes on, with Blount, Washington, and Bolden getting the bulk of the late carries, and I just don't see the team keeping 5 RBs. With Washington providing more value as a return man, blocking back, and pass catcher, and Blount having a better preseason, Bolden could be the odd man out.
Nate Ebner. What the hell happened to this guy? I haven't seen a glimpse of him or his massive shoulder pads once this month. Injuries have really hurt his stock, and what was once the storyline of the 2012 season is dangerously close to being a roster casualty. The safety position is pretty crowded at the moment, and Ebner might be the screwed because of it. Hopefully his recent return to practice is complimented by a strong performance tonight and he can cement himself as a core special teamer.
Tim Tebow. I can't even write anymore about this. For more information on Tim Tebow and his job security in New England, turn your head slightly to the right and down; there will likely be a scrap of newspaper on the floor with a "Is Tebow Time Over in New England?" article on it. If that doesn't work, I'll refer you to the rest of the internet. But yes, he's on the bubble, yes, he'll probably play most if not all of the 2nd half tonight, and yes, it's going to be a story regardless of whether he survives final cuts or not.