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W2W4: Patriots vs. Saints

What to watch for when the Patriots square off against the New Orleans Saints in the 2nd preseason game.

Chandler Jones is watching your every move.
Chandler Jones is watching your every move.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some things to take a further look at as the Patriots continue to prepare for the 2015 Regular Season when they play the New Orleans Saints in the 2nd preseason game.

The Secondary: For the 2nd preseason game in a row, the Patriots will face a Top 5 QB. While Brees isn't on the Brady and Rodgers tier, he's still very capable of tearing apart secondaries and putting up big numbers. The Patriots will have Tarell Brown back, but Darryl Roberts did not make the trip to West Virginia and will not play in the game. While we wait for the extent of his hand/wrist injury, we can only worry about the players that made the trip. Starting the preseason against Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees is a good litmus test for the new faces playing CB.

Development of Rookies on OL and DL: I am most interested on the developments of Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, and Shaq Mason. Mason and Grissom are both players who have immense potential in 2016 and beyond, but were overlooked in the draft due to physical limitations and the lack of a defined position. Given the current situation with the IOL, Mason's development will likely have to come on the fly with Ryan Wendell sidelined. Mason showed his impressive run blocking skills and struggled a small bit in pass protection against Green Bay, but I think he is taking advantage of his opportunities to get better. For Malcom Brown, I would like to see him continue to hold up against double teams and take advantage of the 1-on-1 situations he does get. I believe this year's draft class could be a special class, barring injuries and set the foundation for the team over the next 4-5 years.

Jimmy Garoppolo Again: Garoppolo had good and bad moments in the preseason game against Green Bay. He's proven to be a solid passer on the run and in the short game, but struggled to connect on the deep ball to Josh Boyce. There were times where he looked like a deer in the headlights and struggled when his 1st and 2nd reads weren't there. The offensive line could help him out a bit and give him an extra second to throw the ball. His pre-snap game is nowhere near as strong as Tom Brady's and needs a cleaner pocket to operate. I'd like to see Garoppolo be able to react and adjust to the coverage and pre-snap reads instead of trying to force a scripted play. I'm not sure if he gets the privilege to change plays because he's not the starting QB and it's pretty vanilla during the preseason.

James White and the Receiving Back Role: The receiving back role is a three-horsed race between Brandon Bolden, James White, and Travaris Cadet. I believe all three will make the roster out of camp because the Patriots have always kept two receiving backs plus I believe Cadet and Bolden also bring special teams value to the team. James White got an extended look at the role in the first preseason game against the Packers, but with Cadet close to practicing again the job is up in the air again. Whoever starts in that role in the 2nd preseason game may show us which player has the leg up currently. If White can improve his pass protection and be more consistent at picking up blitzes, I think he can win the role. Same thing for Travaris Cadet, who I consider a WR out of the backfield. I would love to see 2 RB sets with both of them on the field or one of them and LeGarrette Blount to give defenses more wrinkles.

Health: The most important thing to come away from this game is no major injuries to any players who we think could play a role on the 2015 team. There aren't any guarantees that the game will go injury-free, but you're hoping the injuries happen to the bubble players and longshots. If the Patriots can avoid injuries to key players, the final score is irrelevant.