@PP_Rich_Hill true or false, a. johnson is the most interesting person to watch tomorrow (followed by DJ foster)— Toby Dorsen (@toby_dorsen) August 25, 2016
Great question from Toby Dorsen.
The New England Patriots will face the Carolina Panthers in what is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Week 3 of the preseason is the last chance for a lot of players to show their worth as teams will have to trim rosters down to 75 players by the end of August 30th.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t want anyone to confuse the preseason for an actual game, but even he knows this is a crucial moment for some players.
“We're not talking about a regular season game here,” Belichick said about facing the Panthers during Tuesday’s press conference. “We're not talking about game planning and all of those kind of things, which I can't imagine would happen in this game, but they're going to happen in a couple of weeks so it's a whole different ball game.”
“The whole thing is really a balancing act between getting your team ready and evaluating players,” Belichick added on Wednesday. “Of course it's always good when you can evaluate – especially by this third preseason game, fourth preseason game – evaluate players against known players...But you have to get your team ready, so there's definitely a balance between that. We're just not looking at people; we're trying to get ready to play football.”
And so we will turn our focus to some players that need to have statement games against the Panthers. These are either veterans that need one final push to avoid the purge that caught the likes of WR Nate Washington, RB Donald Brown, DT Frank Kearse, and CB E.J. Biggers- or they’re young players looking to make a mark and earn their time on the roster.
RB Tyler Gaffney vs RB D.J. Foster. LeGarrette Blount seemingly won the roster battle with a standout performance last week against the Bears, but there’s still hope for Gaffney, who has averaged 2.68 yards per carry if you remove his 44-yard touchdown dash against the Saints. The coaches think Gaffney can run, catch, block, and play special teams, so he offers a lot of value to the team.
Foster has not yet played and will need to have a major impact against the Panthers if he is going to ever make the active roster.
TE Clay Harbor vs TE AJ Derby. Derby has a big lead over Harbor in the roster contest, but Harbor has experience and versatility on his side. Another solid outing by Derby could force Harbor off the roster because there’s no way Derby will reach the practice squad- and Derby has been competitive all summer.
OG Ted Karras. This isn’t really a competition, but Karras is now in the spotlight after the departure of Bryan Stork. He has been groomed to back up both guard positions and center. He’s a good pass blocker and he’s strong and the coaches like him. Will he do enough to become the back-end option on the offensive line?
DT Terrance Knighton vs DT Markus Kuhn vs DT Anthony Johnson. Perhaps Johnson doesn’t play the same role as the other two, as he is smaller and more of a penetrator, but these three are competing for the same one or two roster spots. Kuhn and Johnson have outplayed Knighton, but Knighton has a better track record.
CB Cre’Von LeBlanc vs CB Darryl Roberts vs CB Jonathan Jones. All three players have made their cases to be on the team. Jones dominated the entire offseason. Roberts has been the most athletic and was great against the Bears. LeBlanc has been the best when you look across both preseason games. Who wins? I would expect this trio to play most of the next two preseason games.
Who will you be watching?