The New England Patriots 2012 preseason opponents were officially announced earlier in the week. The specific dates of those contests are now tricking out as well, and it doesn't look good.
The Patriots are scheduled to play their final three preseason contests in the span of just 10 days. Credit goes to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston for that info nugget and the specific dates.
Belichick often says nothing is more important than the health of players and this will be something he'll have to work around. Having three games so close together could potentially lead to more injuries if the situation is not managed carefully.
The breakdown looks like this:
It's far from an ideal scenario for a team that will undoubtedly need to evaluate a large portion of it's roster. New England currently owns six selections in April's draft and will welcome at least 15 newly signed free agents.
Guys like Jonathan Fanene, Steve Gregory, Brandon Lloyd, Robert Gallery and Will Allen all have the potential, not to mention the salary, to start in 2012 for the Patriots. With four picks in the first 64 selections, it would surprise no one if Bill Belichick is able to pull a starter or two out of the draft as well.
That's a heck of a lot of players to grade out and make decisive calls on in such a short amount of time.
New England has used the fourth and final preseason game as a tuneup for its projected starters in the past, but that may not be possible this year. With so many additions being made, the team is going to need to evaluate it's newest players as fast as possible.
Keeping the roster in good shape health-wise is also going to be paramount. Belichick and his staff has been phenomenal in applying roles to players that fit their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.
Expect to see well-known veterans including Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and Wes Welker in limited capacities. It would heavily surprise me to see any of the Patriots' locked-in starters making back-to-back appearances in these games, unless the team opts to employ a strict snap count.
Interested in reading more by this Featured Columnist? Check out more of Aaron Dodge's work.