Patriots gear up for the Jaguars tonight - What to watch for

Steve Balestrieri
August 11, 2011 at 11:02am ET

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Football is back in full swing here in New England.
The New England Patriots open the 2011 pre-season tonight for a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars. It is an exciting time now that football is back in swing and we all should have football every week now until the month of February.

With that in mind what can we expect to see tonight from the revamped and re-tooled Patriots under Bill Belichick? During this spring’s draft, the Patriots stocked up on offensive talent. During the abbreviated free agency period, they’ve been busy signing mostly defensive players.  I doubt Albert Haynesworth will play; they’ve been holding him out of practice to get him ready for the season. With that in mind, this is what we look for tonight:

  • Don’t expect to see much of Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco. I would imagine they’ll get a few snaps to work the kinks out (10-15 maximum) and that’s it. Look for Brady to find Ocho early in this one.
  • Time for the back-ups to shine, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett should have plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents. While Mallett has struggled at times so far in camp (not unexpected for a rookie QB) he has showcased his big arm on occasion and I would expect the Pats to let him air it out a couple of times.
  • First round pick Nate Solder has gotten a lot of first team snaps with Matt Light being out of the lineup and it will be interesting to see how he fares against NFL competition. He’s struggled a bit in one-on-one battles but shows good footwork and a huge wing-span.
  • Some of the bubble players on the edge will have a chance to show what they can do. Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias, Jeff Tarpinian and 6th round pick Markell Carter should all see some playing time. They’ve all played well at times during camp so it will be interesting to see who gets the most snaps out of this group. Watch Tarpinian, with many players out with injuries, he’s gotten a lot of work lately with the first team STs. That is always a great way to earn a roster spot.
  • Speaking of edge rushers, it will be interesting to see how much work DE Andre Carter gets, he’s worked a lot in drills but little so far in 11-on-11 work. Mark Anderson should see a lot of snaps.
  • With the Patriots playing so much in the four man front so far this summer, (notice we didn’t say 4-3) it will be interesting to see how much pressure they are able to bring on rookie Jags QB Blaine Gabbert. Some of the Pats edge rushers have done well, Eric Moore, Rob Ninkovich, come to mind, but Jermaine Cunningham has struggled and has been pushed around a bit at times. Now would be a great time to remedy that.
  • With the Patriots switching Jerod Mayo to the outside and Brandon Spikes to MLB, (he’s out with leg injury now) Dane Fletcher should see a lot of action at MLB tonight. Fletcher has played well, while not the greatest LB in coverage, he’s been active and aggressive in the running game.
  • On offense, I think Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis will see a few snaps but keep an eye on Stevan Ridley the rookie from LSU. He’s having a solid camp so far and should get plenty of work.
  • A couple of other guys to watch are TE Will Yeatman and WR Jeremy Ross, dark horse candidates to make the team, both have been playing very well in camp and should get a lot of looks tonight with the subs.
  • With CB Leigh Bodden returning from injury this season as well as Devin McCourty and the excellent play from S Patrick Chung, the Patriots secondary should be primed to have an excellent season. I am curious to see if they can take advantage of the rookie Gabbert’s first NFL action. One player with question marks this summer remains S Brandon Meriweather. His play hasn’t filled the coaches with optimism and they looked to bring in a replacement.

Schemes wise, I would expect this contest to be pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball. With camps and workouts being shortened, Bill Belichick has said that he has only put about 15 plays from the playbook into action so far.

On Special teams work, I doubt Stephen Gostkowski will be doing any of the kicking off, but he has been his reliable self in field goal work. Julian Edelman has looked dynamic and explosive in the return game. Taylor Price has also gotten a lot of work in that area as well and has picked up his game on offense. It will be interesting to see what he can do. With Brandon Tate out with an injury, Price has been making the most of his opportunity.

We’ll be here bringing you the recap of tonight’s game as well as any other breaking news out of Foxboro. So stay tuned to Pats Pub.

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