What to Watch For: Patriots vs.Giants
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Finally, real football is almost here.
However, just because the New England Patriots and New York Giants will tee it up Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in the pre-season finale doesn't mean there isn't something at stake.
There is something at stake. J-O-B-S. For 22 players currently on the Patriots roster, they'll either find themselves looking for work with another team, or looking for work outside of football. The final roster cutdown to 53 players comes Saturday by 4:00 pm, putting a premium on effort for a select few. Just how many players belong in that group is tough to determine, since Bill Belichick has already said about 80% of his roster has been decided.
Doing some quick math - perhaps 10-12 players could be playing for the opportunity to call themselves "Patriots" for 2013. Including a back-up quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.
So while you get an all-too-brief-look at most of the guys who will be starters during the regular season, there's definitely something to play for out on the Gillette Stadium field. After all, it IS the New York Giants we're talking about.
It most definitely will be Tebow Time Thursday night. While Tom Brady might sneak in a series or two, and you can expect Ryan Mallett to also wet his whistle - largely due to his lackluster performance in the loss to Detroit - Tebow should get most of the time at QB. Josh Daniels' pet project will have the chance to earn a spot on the roster, or play himself off of it. He's got a rooting interest from none other than owner Robert Kraft, who would love to see someone with his personal traits make the team - in light of the off-season, off-field transgressions that made headlines. But it's not his personal traits the team needs, although some might argue differently. If Tebow has any football value to this team, he'll make it. If he doesn't, he won't.
Battle of the Backs
Running back is a position the Patriots seem to be well equipped to handle this season, with 1200-yard rusher Stevan Ridley, former thousand-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount and 3rd down option Shane Vereen. Beyond these three, it could be considered a toss-up between three players for two spots. I don't see it coming down to Blount vs. Brandon Bolden for the final spot. Bolden, Leon Washington and George Winn will fight for perhaps two slots, although we've seen the offense utilize a fullback during the pre-season with former Brown stand-out James Develin. If the team decides to keep a fullback, that means one less spot for a tailback. Decisions, decisions...
Playing it "safety"
While there will undoubtedly be other roster spots up for grabs (offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver), the defensive backfield has it's fair share of question marks heading into the regular season. Once thought to be the long-time "thumper" the backfield needed, Arizona signee Adrian Wilson has looked a bit slow in the pre-season and could be teetering on the brink. If he's cut, that will still be a surprise, but also open up other opportunities. At cornerback, oft-injured Ras-I Dowling was released Wednesday, and rookie Logan Ryan could be battling for a spot with Alfonzo Dennard, who has been injured. Dennard could also miss time with legal troubles. Plenty of intrigue surrounds the DB's, an area that needs to be settled quickly.