The Patriots start game action tomorrow in their preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. Though it’s preseason and it isn’t very likely to see many starters playing and getting significant time, its still better than watching the Red Sox. Lets take a look at things to watch for during the Patriots preseason opener.
Tom Brady has been receiving all of the first team reps at quarterback before Tuesday when he was preparing for his meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Judge Richard Berman in an attempt to exonerate his four game suspension handed down by the league. With Brady missing yesterdays practice and being in New York today I wouldn’t expect to see Brady in the preseason opener. If Brady does not play I would expect Garoppolo play the whole first half and some of the third quarter before newly signed QB Ryan Lindley sees the field. It is important for Garoppolo to get as much playing time and experience that he can during the preseason just incase Brady ends up missing time due to his suspension. Garoppolo also knows the New England playbook with more than a year of studying under his belt, Lindley has about two days under his belt and the Patriots would likely use a lot smaller playbook focused more on the run with Lindley under center.
Health has been a big concern for the Patriots early in camp and it will be interesting to see who ends up playing in tomorrow’s game. The Patriots offensive line and wide receivers have been plagued the most by the injury bug with Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon Lafell and Matthew Slater among notable names that have missed time. LaGarrette Blount left last weeks practice with an apparent knee injury but suffered no structural damage to his knee and I wouldn’t expect to see Blount suit up against Green Bay. It will also be interesting to see if linebackers Jerod Mayo and Donta Hightower see playing time. Mayo was placed on injured reserve last season after a torn patellar tendon and Hightower an offseason shoulder surgery, have been active in training camp in both contact and non-contact drills but practiced and games are different and the Patriots could choose to hold the linebackers out or limit their playing time.
RICHARDS AND ROBERTS
Two guys who have been making a name for themselves so far in training camp have been second round pick Jordan Richards and seventh round pick Darryl Roberts. To be honest I didn’t like the pick of Richards in the second round, I thought he was a good player and was a good fit for the team but thought the team reached for Richards and could have taken him later in the draft and wasn’t even watching the draft in the seventh round when the team drafted Roberts. Throughout offseason mini camps and OTAs Roberts was making plays and getting strong recognition from coaches and media. Richards could only learn the teams playbook and couldn’t participate in OTAs due to Stanford’s late graduation. Once training camp kicked off, Richards made up for his lost time and Roberts continued to shine, both looking like they could be big contributors to the Patriots defense this season. Tomorrow will be the first NFL game action the two see, and though they likely wont be going against Aaron Rodgers or either of the Packers star receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, one thing I will be looking to see is how the two perform in real game action. Last year, a player I was high on during camp and had high hopes for was Malcolm Butler and wrote about it in articles at this time last year, if these guys can contribute and play as well as Butler did his rookie year and continues to do so during camp, the Patriots again may have found a few diamonds in the rough. The only reason I’m not mentioning Butler as someone to watch is I’m not sure how much playing time the Packers receivers and Rodgers will see, I’m confident in Butler against any of the backups, the real test would be him matched up against Nelson or Cobb with Rodgers at quarterback.
These are things that I will be watching for when the Patriots take the field tomorrow night. It’s only the preseason but Patriots football is back and that is something we can all be happy about.