The New England Patriots will be facing off against Washington in their opening preseason game. The game starts at 7:30pm and should be available to watch on your traditional Patriots provider. I'll be following up with NFL.com's Preseason Live platform.
Both the Patriots and Washington understand that this first game isn't traditionally for the starters- it's for the players on the bubble who need to show their potential. It's for the younger players to have a platform to declare their value to not just the teams on the field, but for those around the league who might need some additional help.
For the Patriots, here are some points to keep in mind:
1) Offensive line - While the Patriots have both tackle positions solidified with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, the center and right guard positions are open for competition. Rookie Bryan Stork won't be playing, so expect Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly to split time at center. Right guard could have even greater competition with Connolly fighting Marcus Cannon and Josh Kline, with rookie Jon Halapio likely to earn some snaps as well. Watch for the rotations and the pairings as the team tries to put the strongest offensive line in front of Tom Brady.
2) Wide receiver - While Julian Edelman is a star and an unavoidable starter, sophomore and expected #2 receiver Aaron Dobson won't be active due to the recovery from his foot injury. That leaves ample time for Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce to state their case for depth chart positioning. While the first three are likely battling for starting time, Boyce will have to fight for recognition as he's been shunted down to the bubble. Brian Tyms has been a dark horse candidate to make the roster, so keep an eye on him.
3) Safety rotation - Devin McCourty is locked in as the starting free safety, so that's a done-deal. Duron Harmon was tagged as the starting strong safety on the preliminary depth chart, although he'll be fighting with Tavon Wilson and Pat Chung for the lion's share of the playing time. Look for those three playersto share the field and try to see who looks the best and in what capacity- Harmon might be playing more on passing downs, while Chung plays as a run-snuffer and Wilson plays as an intermediate dime back.
4) Running back - The Patriots will be using their committee, per usual, but it will be fun to see how rookie James White looks on the field. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will be able to shake off the cobwebs, while all the players jostling for Brandon Bolden's RB4 spot will have their time to shine. Let's see how James Develin performs in the fullback capacity.
5) Quarterback development - Expect Tom Brady to play a drive or two, but the majority of the game will be run by Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mallett take over the middle two quarters, with Garoppolo only playing the final quarter as the Patriots try and put Mallett on display. Even if he's not trade bait anymore, he still factors into the compensatory draft pick selections; getting Mallett the biggest contract possible is in the team's best interest.
6) Pass rushers - Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are locked in as the top two defensive ends. How newer players like Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan, Will Smith, and Zach Moore perform will be important. Bequette might not actually play, so any development from Buchanan and Moore will serve them well when it comes to roster cuts at the end of the summer.
7) Tight ends - Read all about the tight end position here. Let's see if Justin Jones is used in a red zone capacity and see how Asa Watson plays in their time on the field.
Let's hope we have an injury-free game for everyone.