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Preseason week 3 Panthers vs Patriots: 6 players to watch during New England’s dress rehearsal

Keep an eye on these players tonight.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Later today, the New England Patriots will play their third preseason game of the season when they visit the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. Exhibition game number three, of course, is typically the one during which a team’s starters and core rotational guys see the most action – which is why we will keep a close eye at some of them tonight.

Tom Brady: How will he look?

It’s no secret: Tom Brady is the best and most important player on the Patriots’ roster; his performance is closer tied to New England’s success than that of any other man on the team. Today, he will see the most in-game action of this preseason and his performance should give at least some indication about his outlook for 2018, especially when it comes to the chemistry with some of the Patriots’ offseason additions.

Rob Gronkowski: Will he play?

The NFL’s best tight end is no stranger to sitting out preseason games: while healthy and in uniform both times, Rob Gronkowski did not play in the Patriots’ first two exhibition contests. Whether or not he remains on the sidelines today as well remains to be seen. If he hits the field, though, he and his performance after an offseason full of speculation and rumor will naturally be worth keeping a close eye on.

Trent Brown: Will he become more consistent?

An impressive training camp helped Trent Brown establish himself as New England’s top left tackle option and Tom Brady’s blindside protector. Brown has been a pleasant surprise since getting acquired via trade from the San Francisco 49ers, but had his ups and downs during last week’s game. Will he be more consistent tonight when it comes to creating forward push and playing with a sound technique?

Keionta Davis: Will he secure a roster spot?

After missing all of his 2017 rookie season because of a bulging disk in his neck, Keionta Davis played his way into the rotation on New England’s defensive edge over the course of the summer. And while tonight’s game will not make or break his chances of making the 53-man squad, another impressive performance like last week’s should certainly boost his stock even more.

Ja’Whaun Bentley: Will he continue standing out?

The Patriots selected two linebackers on day three of this year’s draft, and one of them is well on his way to make the team: fifth-rounder Ja’Whaun Bentley. After a standout game to start his first NFL preseason, the Purdue product was given regular practice reps and playing time on New England’s starting defense and continued to look good. It will be interesting to see if this continues today.

Jason McCourty: Will he outperform his competition?

When the Patriots traded for Cleveland Browns cornerback Jason McCourty in March, he was seen as a rather safe bet to make the team. Five months later, however, his outlook has changed a bit as McCourty received irregular time with the starters over the course of summer and does not appear to be a lock to make the team. Tonight’s game against Carolina should indicate his status on the team.

Who are you looking forward to today?