The Patriots will face off against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night in their third game of the preseason. With only a few weeks before the start of the season, here’s what the experts are saying about the preseason matchup.
The Patriots expected to play more starters.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, it looks like the Patriots are looking to give more reps to starters, since head coach Bill Belichick has been limiting their snaps this week in practice. This could include defensive starters like Stephon Gilmore or Dont’a Hightower, neither of which have seen the field this preseason.
But most notably, it seems that Tom Brady will take his first snaps of the preseason tonight. In an interview on the Greg Hill Show, Brady said that he “hopes to play” tonight against the Panthers. The Patriots have been playing veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham to this point in the preseason in place of the 42-year-old quarterback.
Wide receiver questions
One of the most contentious position battles in camp has been at the wide receiver position. With Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, Julian Edelman, and N’Keal Harry all almost guaranteed locks for roster spots, that leaves very few spots for a lot of unproven receivers still on the Patriots’ preseason roster. With the health of Thomas, Harry, and Edelman leaving their statuses for Thursday up in the air, a lot of receivers will get a chance to shine, potentially getting snaps with Brady and giving them a chance to prove they belong on the Patriots 53-man roster.
With Demaryius Thomas activated, here is my view of WR spot, (projection to keep 6):
Josh Gordon (NFI)
(Cameron Meredith – NFI)
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 21, 2019
Uncertainty lingers at tight end position.
With Matt Lacosse and Stephen Anderson likely out injured, other tight ends on the Patriots’ preseason roster will get a chance Thursday. This includes recently-acquired Lance Kendricks and Eric Saubert, as well as Ryan Izzo and Andrew Beck. Without the presence of Lacosse and Anderson, these four tight ends will have a chance to play their way onto the 53-man roster.
Cam Newton will play.
Brady isn’t the only franchise quarterback who will be suiting up for the first time this preseason. Panther quarterback Cam Newton will take his first snaps of the preseason Thursday.
Cam Newton is set to play “3 or 4 really good possessions” according to coach Ron Rivera. Tom Brady has played in 10 straight and 17 of 19 Preseason Game 3s over his career.
Patriots vs Panthers 7:30pm @GilletteStadium
Listen: @985TheSportsHub pic.twitter.com/WSeX9z6P6a
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) August 22, 2019
Is Duke Dawson’s switch to safety permanent?
Dawson was not a bright spot for New England last Saturday against the Titans, struggling to make a positive impact on the field.
Duke Dawson called for illegal hands to the face. Still waiting on last year’s second-round pick to string together some positive moments.
— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) August 18, 2019
This has caused the Patriots to begin looking at alternatives for the second-year defensive back. One thing that Belichick tried was to move Dawson to safety, as it appears Dawson may have been passed in the corner back depth chart by Keion Crossen. One thing to look for tonight is how many snaps the former second-round pick gets, and how many of them come at the safety position.
Is Duron Harmon’s roster spot up in trouble?
While most Patriots veterans have seen few to no snaps this preseason, Duron Harmon has been on the field quite a bit. While this isn’t a red flag in it of itself, it is something to note. As pointed out by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Harmon finished top-eight on the team in defensive snaps each of the past two seasons, so a high volume of preseason reps seems unnecessary. Howe speculates that Harmon, who is owed $2.5 million this season, could be on the bubble with Terrance Brooks and Nate Ebner fighting for snaps, as well as young safeties Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, and possibly even Dawson emerging as intriguing options. Harmon’s playing time will be interesting to monitor tonight to see if he really is at risk of losing his roster spot.