The New England Patriots opted to hold all of their starters out of the preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and we can look at those players that remained on the sideline to get a sense of where they stand with the team.
QB: Tom Brady
Brady didn’t play, which allowed Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett to line up for the whole game. There’s no need to risk Brady.
RB: James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee (hamstring)
Gillislee has been dealing with a hamstring injury, but there’s a strong chance he wouldn’t have suited up even if healthy. This trio represents the probable locks at the position, with Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, and D.J. Foster likely fighting for the last roster spot.
WR: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater (hamstring), Cody Hollister (injury)
The game book says that Cooks played, but that doesn’t seem right. The Patriots have five receivers locked in Edelman, Cooks, Hogan, Mitchell, and Amendola, although Mitchell might have been held out due to his history of knee injuries. These absences allowed Austin Carr and K.J. Maye to stand out.
FB: James Develin
FB Glenn Gronkowski benefit from all the fullback snaps.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Matt Lengel, James O’Shaughnessy (injury)
Gronkowski and Allen were expected to miss time, while O’Shaughnessy is dealing with a minor injury. Lengel is the serious surprise absence because that could imply he’s the front runner for the third tight end position- or that the Patriots saw enough of Lengel last year and wanted to see more of Jacob Hollister and Sam Cotton. Lengel missed the walkthrough prior to the game, too, as his first absence of the summer.
OL: David Andrews, Marcus Cannon, Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Tony Garcia (injury), Andrew Jelks (NFI)
The game book says that Thuney and Mason played, but I don’t think that’s right. The starting line-up didn’t play as the Patriots gave their second-stringers all of the snaps. Ted Karras benefit from the extra time, while it seems like Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle are the top back-ups.
EDGE: Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin (injury?)
Most surprising is that McClellin was listed as a defensive end on the Patriots roster, which could reveal a little about the Patriots intended usage of the defensive jackknife. He missed practice against the Jaguars which could imply an injury. Deatrich Wise was the top player to see time, with Kony Ealy stepping up once Wise suffered an injury.
DT: Alan Branch (PUP), Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine (injury?)
Valentine has been with the conditioning team, while the three veterans weren’t going to suit up. Adam Butler, Darius Kilgo, and Woodrow Hamilton saw plenty of time, alongside Josh Augusta.
LB: Dont’a Hightower (PUP), David Harris, Kyle Van Noy
These players look like they’re the top linebackers on the roster, with Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi, and Jonathan Freeny the next in line. Trevor Bates played once Roberts suffered an injury.
CB: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe (injury)
Butler and Gilmore are locked in as starters, while Rowe has missed a handful of practices. After the game against the Jaguars, it’s clear that Rowe deserves the inside lane as the third cornerback because no one else really stood out in a positive way.
S: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, David Jones (injury?)
The Patriots top four safeties are locked in and that allowed Jordan Richards to see time- and to not play at a high level. Jones has been working with the conditioning team and wasn’t able to play. The only other safeties to suit up were Damarius Travis and Jason Thompson, which is why Cyrus Jones had to play some safety after Richards appeared to jam his wrist.