Today, the New England Patriots will face a familiar opponent in a fimilar location for their second game of the 2017 preseason. The Patriots will play the Houston Texans, with whom they have held joint practices this week, at Houston's NRG Stadium, where the team won Super Bowl LI in February.
As opposed to the first preseason contest last week, New England is expected to use a wider array of weapons and the team's starters will see at least some playing time. With that in mind, let's take a look at five players to watch on Saturday.
WR Brandin Cooks
After being held out of last week's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brandin Cooks could see his first game action in a Patriots uniform today. The offseason acquisition has looked spectacular at times during practice but seeing him perform in a game might offer another glimpse of how New England will use him, how his chemistry with Tom Brady is developing and how productive he might ultimately become as part of a deep Patriots offense.
TE Jacob Hollister
Jacob Hollister was a standout during last week's game, finishing with seven catches for 116 yards. With most of the Patriots' top-of-the-roster players projected to return to action today, Hollister's usage and performance will show how realistic his chances of making the team's roster or, more likely, practice squad are. If he can repeat last week's success, the undrafted rookie might be able to distance himself from his competition for a spot on New England's payroll.
OC David Andrews
The last time the Patriots played the Texans - the divisional playoff round last season -, Andrews had arguably his worst game of the year. He particularly struggled with the speed and quickness of Houston's interior defenders. And while they will not go all-in in trying to attack New England's offense today, Andrews' performance against players like Whitney Mercilus might show how much he has progressed in his first offseason as the undisputed starting center.
DE Adam Butler
Derek Rivers? Knee. Deatrich Wise Jr.? Concussion. Kony Ealy? Shoulder. Rob Nink... you get the idea. The Patriots are short on the defensive edge with multiple players either out or hobbled. This means that New England needs bodies to fill the spot opposite Trey Flowers. Butler, a tackle-end hybrid, is a top option to do just that. He had a good game against the Jaguars and might be able to further state his case for a roster spot if he has another solid outing against the Texans.
DE Harvey Langi
Butler is just one candidate to provide depth on the defensive edge. Another versatile undrafted rookie appears to be as well: Harvey Langi. After seeing regular practice reps with the first team defense, Langi should finally see some game action with the starters today. If he is able to replicate his practice performances and prove that playing against top competition is not too big of a challenge, Langi might get one step closer to the 53-man roster as a potential replacement for the above-mentioned Rivers.