As the New England Patriots play their home opener against the Oakland Raiders, all signs point to a Patriots victory. While Bill Belichick won't say the game is a walk in the park, this is definitely a game for the Patriots to work out some issues on both sides of the ball and figure out where the roster currently stands. Here are some players that need to use this game as a springboard moving forward.
The Runnings Backs: Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, maybe James White
While Vereen and Ridley are both veterans, they've been wildly inconsistent over the past couple season. Vereen has missed time due to injury and he nicked up his shoulder this past week against the Vikings. Ridley notched a 100-yard game, but he still needs to work on proving that he should be the team's workhorse running back.
Bolden hasn't played well this season and White hasn't played at all. With suspensions for Brian Tyms and Brandon Browner ended in a couple weeks, Bolden needs to show that he deserves a roster spot. Perhaps White will be activated for the first time.
All of these players need to succeed and hopefully the team can build up enough of a lead to let these players get into a rhythm carrying the ball.
The Injured Products: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, and Dominique Easley
Both players are on snap counts, with Gronkowski looking to be a week or two away from full integration. Dobson is sorely needed as an outside threat, while a healthy Gronk is always beneficial for the offense. Hopefully these players can piece together positive drives and take a step forward to their return.
Easley is on the defensive side of the ball and he had an impact interception last week. If he can generate more pressure in the pass rush, the future of the Patriots defense will continue to shoot skywards.
Continued Momentum: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Devin McCourty
Hightower has been the team's best defender through two weeks, while Jones' week 2 performance was the best defensive game a Patriots fan has seen in a long while. McCourty continues on his upward trajectory as one of the best young safeties in the league.
All three of these players should be able to dominate against a lower level of competition and another successful game will help build up the team's standing as a top defense.
Inside Protectors: Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Jordan Devey
The Patriots interior line looked much better in week 2 than they did in week 1, but there's still plenty of work to do. The Raiders feature a strong interior lineman in tackle Pat Sims, so there will be a spotlight on the interior. Cannon is still adjusting to life as a guard instead of as a tackle, while Connolly is playing well at center.
Devey looked much better in week 2, but he hasn't put together a full game. His pass blocking was a weakness against the Dolphins while his run blocking left much to be desired against the Vikings. Can he put together a neutral performance? That would go far in solidifying the starting line.
Who are players that you will be watching?