Week 1 - vs Packers
Thursday, August 13, 7:30 PM EST
The opening game of the preseason is not for the starters. This is the game for the second and third string players to try and differentiate themselves prior to the first cuts. Last season started against Washington, featuring Brian Tyms insane catch and Jordan Devey playing wire to wire. It's for rookies, for players kicking off rust from an injury, and for positional battles without a clear front-runner.
It's clear that head coach Bill Belichick respects Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, but it's unclear if New England will want to have a joint practice session so early in the preseason. Throwing players into the fire might be the most Belichick thing to do.
Week 2 - at Saints
Saturday, August 22, 7:30 PM EST
Pencil this week in for joint practices with Saints head coach Sean Payton. The starters will see the first few drives of the game, before handing over the reigns to the players closer to the bubble. Depth charts start to take form as players who stood out in Week 1 might be given chances to play with the starters, like Jordan Devey and Malcolm Butler did last season, to see how they can adjust.
Week 3 - at Panthers
Friday, August 28, 7:30 PM EST
This is another possibility for a joint practice, and it'd be curious to see if the Patriots try to take advantage of this Away-Away in the preseason to offer his players the experience of an extended road trip. This game is extremely important because it'll be the last time the starters suit up prior to the regular season, and also because it's the last time bubble players can stand out before roster cuts.
If a player doesn't see the field here, they're definitely down on the depth chart. This was the game last season where Jimmy Garoppolo passed Ryan Mallett in the depth chart, and where Devey solidified his roster spot. Teams usually have to cut their roster from 90 to 75 players after this game.
Week 4 - vs Giants
Thursday, September 3, 7:30 PM EST
The starters will rest this game and the second stringers will see their most extensive time on the field all year. Garoppolo quarterbacked behind an offensive line of Chris Barker, Josh Kline, Braxston Cave, Jon Halapio, and Cameron Fleming, and threw to Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon, and Kenbrell Thompkins. James White and Roy Finch split the carries.
This is where the 53 man roster is created, and the back-end of the team determined. For some players, this will be their last chance to show they have upside and deserve to be stashed on the roster.