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Players to Watch: Preseason Game #2

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Players to watch in the 2nd preseason game against the New Orleans Saints.

Dominique Easley showed that promise in the first preseason game.
Dominique Easley showed that promise in the first preseason game.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots will play their second preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. The starters will likely play deeper into the game, but most of them will be lifted by the end of the first half. Once again, it will likely be the Jimmy Garoppolo show behind center and the bubble players will likely see time in the second again. The most important thing to take away from the game is finishing the game relatively unscathed.

Dominique Easley, DE/DT, #99- Easley showcased the talent that the Patriots gambled on in the first preseason game. He’s not 100% back, but he’s very close. Easley has added some muscle in the offseason and his explosive first step is pretty much back. Easley has the potential to be a difference maker on the defensive front. At 6’2" 290, Easley isn’t just a pass rushing specialist, he’s also very sturdy against the run despite his undersized build. For a guy who has a very good first step, he’s very active with his hands which puts offensive linemen on their heels as they are coming out of their stances.

James White, Receiving Back, #28- James White took advantage of the opportunity given to him in the first preseason game and put himself on the map. White is a very effective pass catcher and has great open field agility. I would like to see how his pass protection technique looks now that the coaches have game film to evaluate him on. White was very inconsistent against the Packers in that department, at times he would halt a blitzing linebacker right in his tracks and other times he would miss an assignment or get ran over because he didn’t square himself up. White still has the inside track to win the receiving back role because of injuries to his primary competition. A strong performance against the Saints might win him the job.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, #10- Jimmy Garoppolo had an inconsistent performance against the Packers. Garoppolo has done a nice job of transitioning from a shotgun, 1-read offense without a playbook to a complex, timing-oriented system where the routes depend on the coverage. It’s a very difficult transition, but Garoppolo for the most part has worked his butt off to get comfortable within the scheme. I think his negatives were overstated following the game amongst media outlets, but at the same time there are things he needs to improve upon in case Judge Berman rules in favor of the NFL next month. Garoppolo should have better weapons to work with since Aaron Dobson is practicing again. I’m not sure what the OL situation, especially on the edge will look like, but if Solder and Vollmer can go that will help a lot. Tom Brady will likely start the game and play maybe 3-4 drives before passing the baton to Jimmy G. With a better supporting cast, I think we’ll see the Jimmy Garoppolo we thought we’d see this camp.

Tarell Brown, CB, #31- The Patriots signed Brown just before the start of training camp, but the team clearly valued him over the offseason. Brown was a #1 CB for an elite San Francisco defense in the early Harbaugh years and the Patriots are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Brown has had an excellent camp so far, which gives us hope that the secondary will be at least above average at the CB position. Butler's not a top tier #1, but a 1-2 punch of Butler and Brown stacks up pretty well against most of the league. The only issue with Brown is health over the years, the Patriots need him to stay healthy this season while Darryl Roberts develops behind the scenes.

Jonathan Freeny, LB, #55- Belichick seems very high on Freeny as a contributor, using the phrase "Four Down Player" to describe him. Freeny got the start against the Packers and struggled a bit in that game. As the primary backup on the team, Freeny will likely need to be able to handle all linebacker duties. In order to have a more successful second preseason game, Freeny cannot afford to hesitate. Instead of being flat-footed and reacting, he needs to diagnose the play quickly and stay on the attack. Freeny is on my list to make the roster after initially dismissing him as a training camp move back in March. If Freeny can play quicker and more aggressive in the 2nd preseason game, I'll change him from a 70-90% lock to a 100% lock to make the roster.