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Preseason Week 2 Patriots vs Eagles: What to Watch For

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The penultimate week for Patriots camp players to make a big impression- who sticks around?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are playing host to Philadelphia Eagles tonight at 7:30pm. Click here for more details on the game. Week two of the preseason is the most crucial time of camp as it's where the Patriots will make the bulk of their decisions. Cuts down to 75 players will occur August 25th, the days following the third week. However, teams tend to use the third week of the preseason as the warm-up for the regular season starters.

Prospects will need to shine this week if they wish to get another chance in Week 3 and to make it to the final week of the preseason.

Here's what to watch for:

1) Ryan Mallett's future - Jimmy Garoppolo broke out in the first week and word on the beat is that he's been a changed player in practice. Mallett's missed time with a leg injury and the team has been trying out quarterbacks for the past couple of weeks. This is Mallett's chance to make some noise and change his narrative. Perhaps the Patriots will trade him for a late round pick, similar to how the Jaguars traded Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers. Mallett's star has definitely faded and another quality outing from Garoppolo would leave Mallett on the outside of the roster, looking in.

2) Brandon Bolden's future - The Patriots have high expectations for rookie James White, who has effectively taken Bolden's spot as the Shane Vereen insurance policy. Bolden hasn't been active in practice and it's very possible the team opts to move forward with just White, Vereen, Stevan Ridley, and James Develin- and maybe even Roy Finch. Bolden's usage will show how the Patriots view his future with the team.

3) Josh Boyce's future - Some think the Patriots wouldn't leave a 4th round pick in their second season, but Boyce has fallen further and further behind in the depth chart. He's not playing poorly, but others are just playing better. With Aaron Dobson a lock, regardless of injury, and Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, and Kenbrell Thompkins playing very well, there won't be space for depth receivers. Add in the exciting Brian Tyms and who knows how the back end of the depth chart will fall. If the aforementioned Roy Finch excels in the kick off game, we could possibly see the departure of both Bolden and Boyce.

4) Steve Maneri's future - No, just kidding. But he's the only healthy tight this game, so expect a lot of wide receiver sets.

5) Ryan Wendell's future - While rookie Bryan Stork was the expected starter, an injury opened the door for Wendell. However, it looks like Dan Connolly picked up where Stork left off and Wendell is back on the outside of the roster competition. The Patriots need to field the strongest interior line and a lot will hinge upon whether a competent right guard (Josh Kline?) can step up if Connolly slides to center. If no right guard emerges, then Connolly will likely move back to guard with Wendell taking back center. The interior line will be fun to focus on this game.

6) Will Smith's future - The Patriots picked up a savvy veteran coming off of an ACL injury to try and supplement the defensive end position so Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich wouldn't have to play 100% of the snaps. While Michael Buchanan looks like he's better fit for the 3-4 OLB role, Zach Moore showed some potential as a subpackage rusher and flashed more upside than Smith in Week 1. The Patriots will go with the potential and upside over the veteran, who would be on speed dial the whole season, so any sign of growth from Moore would likely result in a Smith departure.

7) Jerod Mayo's future - Where has he been? His roster spot is not in question and it's unlikely he'll play having missed the majority of the week's practices. Still, how the starting line-up of Mayo, Jamie Collins, and Dont'a Hightower look together will be a fun point of interest for this season. Also, we need to watch how Darius Fleming follows up an excellent Week 1 outing as he pushes Steve Beauharnais closer to the roster bubble.

8) Rutger's future - Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon were supposed to claim the two open battles in the secondary, but neither has put forth a convincing effort to take the nickelback and strong safety position, respectively. Ryan played poorly against Washington and will need to have a quality rebound effort against the Eagles as he tries to earn the starting role while Brandon Browner is suspended. Harmon, on the other hand, hasn't played poorly- he just hasn't separated himself from the pack. Tavon Wilson looked adequate in week 1 and Pat Chung has been stealing first team snaps in practice. If Harmon can't separate himself from "adequate", then this battle will continue to ensue for the rest of camp.

9) Tymsanity - I just want to watch Brian Tyms. Every time he is on the field, something awesome is bound to happen and now that he's taking reps with the first team, you know he's set up for something fun. While he's suspended for the first four games of the season, another great game from him might force the Patriots to keep him around.

10) Does Dominique Easley play? - That's a full question. He's been participating in camp and is looking like he'll be ready for week 1 of the regular season. Does he play tonight and, if so, who does he play with and how does he fare?