By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Yes, it’s still the preseason. But if you’re activity to get actually invested in a preseason game, this is the one.
We’ve hit Anniversary 3 of the division afore the season, which is annually dubbed a “dress rehearsal” for the amateur that actually count. That agency we’ll see a lot of Tom Brady and New England’s added first-teamers Friday night (except for Rob Gronkowski, who commonly doesn’t comedy in the preseason) aback the Patriots booty on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. It will additionally acceptable be the aftermost we see of the starters until Sept. 9.
While we already apperceive what to apprehend out of Brady, alike at the age of 41, there’s still a lot we don’t apperceive about the guys who will be communicable passes from him. Friday night should accord us a bigger abstraction of who will annular out the basal of the advanced receiver group, which charcoal one of the bigger issues on either ancillary of the ball.
And admitting the New England aegis abstracts to be worlds bigger than it looked the aftermost time we saw them booty the acreage in a allusive d (a very, actual allusive game), there are actually a lot of catechism marks surrounding that ancillary of the brawl as well. Here’s what we’ll be watching for aback the Patriots booty the acreage for the aing affair we’ll get to real football the approved division bliss off.
Running aback James White was Tom Brady’s admired ambition aftermost anniversary adjoin the Eagles, and that should be the case during Julian Edelman’s four-game vacation to alpha the season. But everywhere abroad (non-Gronkowski department) charcoal a abstruseness on the New England offense.
Edelman has looked acceptable as he comes aback from a absent season, but it’s time afresh to adapt for activity afterwards Brady’s aegis blanket. Chris Hogan will be Brady’s No. 1 receiver to alpha the season, at atomic in title. He looked abundant bigger aftermost anniversary than he did in Anniversary 1, so things should be OK on that front. It will be added arresting to see Phillips Dorsett, abnormally if he curve up on the outside. He had aloof one accession on three targets aftermost anniversary adjoin the Eagles, numbers that should access Friday night. It will additionally be absorbing to see if Cordarrelle Patterson can body off an absorbing assuming in the casual d aftermost week, aback he hauled in four receptions for 71 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown from Brian Hoyer in the third quarter. It was initially believed that Patterson would see best of his arena time on appropriate teams, but that could change with accession solid assuming as a receiver on Friday night.
The best ambiguity comes at the basal of the receiver abyss chart, area several players are aggressive for what will acceptable be one agenda spot. Eric Decker hasn’t done abundant of annihilation aback the Patriots brought him in three weeks ago, a from bead the football, and he’ll charge to do article adjoin the Panthers if he wants any attempt at authoritative the Anniversary 1 roster. Decker alone accustomed $75,000 in affirmed money from the Patriots aback he signed, so the aggregation would accept no problems acid the nine-year adept if he hasn’t bent on by aing week.
After Decker, adolescent receivers Devin Lucien, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios and Paul Turner are angry for their agenda lives. McCarron has gotten some run with the first-team breach and can acknowledgment punts, and Lucien had a solid assuming in Bold 1 of the preseason (four receptions, 71 yards). That may accord that duo the central clue amid the accumulation at the moment, but none of those players can allow a footfall aback Friday night.
And if Gronk gets accession preseason angle off, it will be absorbing to see if Jacob Hollister gets some added assignment with the first-team breach Friday night. (UPDATE: Hollister will not comedy Friday night, per reports.) He’s angry active throughout training affected and could acquisition himself in a abundant bigger role already the approved division bliss off.
Young Linebackers, Meet Christian McCaffrey
Ja’Whaun Bentley has accustomed New England’s linebacking accumulation an bang of adolescence that they’ve badly needed, but they’re about to appointment a difficult assignment in Charlotte. The accumulation is apparently activity to attempt Friday night, tasked with absolute Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers’ duel-threat active back. Activity adjoin the atomic second-year aback will be a abundant preseason assay for a accumulation that active into the approved division with such promise.
McCaffrey fabricated a bad Dolphins aegis attending actually abhorrent aftermost week, torching them for 92 yards on bristles carries and 28 accession yards on four catches. He best up best of those hasty yards on a 71-yard touchdown scamper, dispatch by best of the Miami aegis on his way to the end zone. Bentley will accept his easily abounding if he’s told to accumulate McCaffrey in assay on Friday night.
It’s additionally a big d for adolescent amateur linebacker Christian Sam, who had an adept interception and seven tackles aftermost anniversary adjoin the Eagles. He’s still on the agenda bubble, so a able assuming will go a continued way adjoin him authoritative the team.
Defense Vs. A Mobile QB
In accession to McCaffrey, the New England D will accept their easily abounding adjoin Cam Newton. Mobile quarterback accept accustomed the Patriots’ aegis a lot of issues over the aftermost brace of seasons, so this will be accession solid assay afore amateur alpha to count, abnormally with DeShaun Watson and the Houston Texans up aboriginal on the approved division schedule.
The preseason Patriots accept done a abundant job applying burden on opposing quarterbacks, recording 11 sacks in their two preseason games. And that’s afterwards unleashing the arresting force that is Trey Flowers. They’ll accept to accumulate that burden activity Friday night while additionally authoritative abiding Newon doesn’t accept the amplitude to run wild.
We got a quick glimpse of New England’s arresting starters aftermost anniversary adjoin Philly (minus Flowers), and they didn’t disappoint. Newcomer Adrian Clayborn had a strip-sack on Nick Foles, which Bentley alternate for a touchdown. The seven-year adept was confusing during his time in the game, and the Eagles breach couldn’t do anything. Derek Rivers is additionally attractive able afterwards missing all of his amateur season, recording a sack aftermost week.
In all, the Patriots recorded eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits aftermost week. If they can accumulate that activity adjoin the Panthers, it could beggarly big things for Brian Flores’ aegis aback the approved division arrives.
Rounding The Corners
Stephon Gilmore is anchored in as the No. 1 corner, and it looks like Eric Rowe will be lining up on the added ancillary as their starting No. 2.
After that, it’s all aloof a academic game. Amateur Duke Dawson appears to accept the central clue as New England’s aperture corner, but injuries accept kept him from locking bottomward that job. As a second-round pick, Dawson’s agenda atom isn’t absolutely in jeopardy. But afterwards that, the antagonism is still baking with as abounding as seven players aggressive for two agenda spots.
Veteran Jason McCourty is still not a lock to accomplish the roster, and he’s angry alongside Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz and rookies Keion Crossen and J.C. Jackson. Crossen didn’t do himself any favors with a poor achievement aftermost anniversary adjoin the Eagles, and McCourty wasn’t too absorbing during his time on the acreage either. But the adept will be accustomed every adventitious Bill Belichick can allow to accord him, with the two Jones’ additionally blind on. Jackson has been the best absorbing of the group, but he’ll charge to abide his able comedy Friday night if he wants to accomplish the roster.
Tune in to Patriots-Panthers Friday night on WBZ-TV — the flagship base of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins at 7pm with Patriots All Access afterward by alpha at 7:30pm, and afterwards the d tune in to Patriots 5th Division for abounding acknowledgment and assay of Preseason d No. 3!
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