5 Things to Watch for in Patriots' Preseason Finale Against the Giants
After an uninspiring performance against the Buccaneers last Friday, there will be plenty for fans to keep an eye on in the Patriots' preseason finale against the defending Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants.
While Patriot Nation will be looking for a vengeful win against the squad that robbed their team of a fourth Lombardi trophy (who cares if it's only preseason!), Bill Belichick and his coaching staff will be using the opportunity to evaluate the team's talent in game action for the last time before the regular season begins.
Here are a few things to watch for on Wednesday night.
How Long Belichick Plays His Starters
Following an embarrassing 30-28 loss to the Buccaneers, Bill Belichick was steaming with disappointment throughout his postgame press conference (per Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston):
I think it was pretty obvious tonight that we got a lot of work to do. We have a long way to go. We really didn’t perform to the level that we need to, in any area. When you can’t score offensively, and give up a lot of points on defense, and don’t make any plays in the kicking game, then you don’t really have a good chance to win and that’s pretty much the way it was tonight.
With the hooded genius obviously disgusted with his team, does he opt to play it safe and rest his starters or does he take a risk and leave them in for an extended amount of time, hoping to see improvement?
If there's one thing we know for sure about New England's head coach, it's that he isn't afraid to take a risk.
Players on the Roster Bubble
If New England's coaching staff is on the fence about any players, they are likely to take a long hard look at them on Wednesday night.
With the Patriots required to cut their roster down from 75 to 53 by Friday night, this is the last chance for many players to prove that they are worthy of a final roster spot.
Here is a list of players that are likely on the "roster bubble" heading into the preseason finale:
FB Eric Kettani
WR Jeremy Ebert (rookie)
WR Kerry Taylor
WR Jesse Holley
TE Alex Silvestro
TE Tyler Urban (rookie)
TE Visanthe Shiancoe
OL Nick McDonald
T Matt Kopa
T Darrion Weems (rookie)
T Dustin Waldron (rookie)
G Derek Dennis (rookie)
G Jeremiah Warren (rookie)
C Dan Koppen
DE Justin Francis (rookie)
DT Marcus Forston (rookie)
DT Marcus Harrison
LB Aaron Lavarias
LB Mike Rivera
LB Tracy White
CB Malcolm Williams
CB Alfonzo Dennard (rookie)
CB Marquice Cole
S Sergio Brown
S Derrick Martin
Logan Mankins' Recovery from ACL Surgery
Logan Mankins, New England's four-time Pro Bowl left guard, made his preseason debut against the Bucs last Friday after being on the Physically Unable to Perform List for most of training camp while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
If the overall performance of the offensive line in Tampa was any indication, Mankins is still working on getting his chops back.
If Mankins does play against the Giants, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on his performance, as his recovery is a key ingredient to the success of the offensive line going forward.
Nate Solder Building off of His Performance Against the Bucs
Despite the offensive line struggling as a whole last Friday, Nate Solder seemed to make positive strides in his development following two lackluster preseason performances.
The second-year tackle was far from perfect, but he flashed glimpses of why the Patriots drafted him No. 17 overall in the 2011 NFL draft to eventually replace the recently retired Matt Light.
Being asked to protect Tom Brady's blind side, Solder has the tallest order of all New England's offensive linemen heading into the 2012 season.
Jeff Demps Returning Kicks
With the regular-season opener in Tennessee less than two weeks away, the Patriots are probably looking to see improvements in their return game, which is currently ranked 29th in the NFL according to NFL.com.
Jeff Demps was signed by the Patriots to provide a boost in the return department, so the Olympic medalist sprinter/former Florida Gator should see extended time returning kicks on Wednesday night.
Aside from Chris Johnson, Demps is probably the fastest player in the NFL. It will be interesting to continue to watch how his world-class speed translates to the NFL.