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What to Watch For: Packers vs. Patriots

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Things to watch for when the Patriots square off against the Green Bay Packers in the first preseason game for the 2015 season.

This is a very important game for Jimmy Garoppolo and other players trying to make a first impression on the coaching staff.
This is a very important game for Jimmy Garoppolo and other players trying to make a first impression on the coaching staff.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The first preseason game is the first exposure for fans who haven't attended the Patriots training camp practices. For rookies and newcomers, it's the chance to make a first impression and get game film for the evaluation process. The first preseason game is mostly for players on the bubble to make the roster and rookies getting into their first game. Most of the presumed starters that figure to be a big part of the offense/defense will be sitting out of this game because their place on the roster is essentially guaranteed. You don't get a second chance to make a First Impression.

  1. Jimmy Garoppolo: With Tom Brady likely sitting this game out, Jimmy Garoppolo will get the controls for most of the game. The most important part is seeing how he reacts to a different style of defense than the one he's gone against in training camp. Garoppolo must show good pocket composure and solid decision making skills in the event that Judge Berman holds up Brady's suspension. Garoppolo will not likely be working with much of the presumed starters, so it will be a bit of a challenge for him.
  2. Veteran Cornerbacks: The Patriots lost their Top 3 CBs from the 2014 season, but dwelling on that is pretty much beating on a dead horse. In camp, Malcolm Butler has picked up where he left off last season and stood out with very competitive practices against Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson. With Butler manning one cornerback spot, the other comes down to Tarell Brown, Logan Ryan, Bradley Fletcher, and Darryl Roberts. So far it looks like Brown is the front-runner to get that spot, but he would still need to have a solid preseason showing to earn a starting spot. I'm not sure how many snaps Rodgers and the Packers starting receivers will get for the game, if at all, but the objective is performing well enough for the coaching staff to notice. Darryl Roberts is the one player who has the most to gain with a great performance because I believe he could develop into a starting CB.
  3. Rookie Guards: The Patriots drafted two guards in the 4th round with very high expectations for both of them. Tre' Jackson is expected to start at right guard for the Patriots since that's the position he played next to 2nd year center Bryan Stork when both players were at Florida State. I'm not sure if Shaq Mason will get the start at left guard for the Patriots, but he's taken a lot of reps with the rest of the starting offensive line. Jackson and Mason will likely get more snaps than the veteran starters on the offensive line because it's the coaching staff's first look at those two at game speed.
  4. New Long Snapper: Joe Cardona has replaced Danny Aiken as the long snapper and this is the first extended look for him in a Patriots uniform. I like to joke that Cardona is an adopted 3rd son for Bill Belichick given that he's a long snapper from the Naval Academy that also plays LaCrosse. Cardona is one of the better long snapper prospects in a long time with snaps being clocked at over 40 MPH, but I could see him getting a bit nervous since it's his first NFL preseason game. With Cardona, Aiken, and Gostkowski under contract for the next four years, the Patriots locked up their Core 3 special teamers.
  5. Secondary: The Patriots have rebuilt their secondary this offseason, with a lot of pieces moving in and out. Revis, Browner, and Arrington are gone. Super Bowl Hero Malcolm Butler, Tarell Brown, Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher, and Logan Ryan hope to fill up those spots. Butler has had a great camp, taking nothing for granted and not resting on the laurels of his Super Bowl-clinching pick. Brown has been solid in camp too, showing that he does have something left in the tank. Rookie Darryl Roberts has the tools, but still inconsistent while flashing his talent. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers starting offense will be playing the first quarter, which means this should be a good test for the new secondary.
  6. Health: Most of the Patriots starters are a bit banged up, but should be able to play Week 1. The first preseason game isn't about the starters, it's more for the bubble players trying to win a roster spot. The injury situation hasn't reached alarming levels yet, it's more precaution than anything.
UPDATE: Aaron Rodgers will play the entire first quarter according to CBS broadcaster Kevin Harlan. This should be a good test for the rebuilt secondary.