- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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That might turn out to be the greatest benefit for the Patriots, as they will return to New Meadowlands Stadium in the second week of the regular season for a highly anticipated clash against the Jets.
Based on practices this week, receiver Julian Edelman, rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, safety Brandon McGowan, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, tight end Aaron Hernandez; cornerbacks Terrence Wheatley and Kyle Arrington and defensive linemen Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick are among those not expected to suit up for the game because of injuries.
Meanwhile, there remains a question as to how much, if at all, starters like quarterback Tom Brady will play. Brady did not play in last season's preseason finale.
Bill Belichick has told all players to be ready for action, but that doesn't mean he plans to play them.
With this in mind, here are five areas worthy of monitoring from a Patriots perspective:
1. Young secondary without Leigh Bodden. Cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Darius Butler, the projected starters now that Bodden is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff, had tough performances last week against the Rams. One of the important aspects of playing the position is to have a short memory. This is a chance to see how McCourty and Butler grade out in that area.
2. Brian Hoyer and the quarterback position. To this point, the 2009 undrafted free agent has proved that the backup spot is in good hands. He's played approximately 67 snaps and in 11 drives and helped produce five touchdowns. He is 17-of-31 for 205 yards, with no interceptions. In addition to Hoyer, this figures to be the best chance to evaluate rookie quarterback Zac Robinson for a possible spot with the team, likely on the practice squad.
3. Tyrone McKenzie at inside linebacker. The 2009 third-round draft choice has not received an extended opportunity through three preseason games as rookie Brandon Spikes has seen the majority of work. McKenzie looks like the fourth inside linebacker on the depth chart, and this figures to be his best game-specific chance to show the coaches he might deserve consideration for a move up the ranks.
4. Running game and Laurence Maroney. The Patriots have been rotating their running backs throughout the preseason and Maroney has been used the least (on the field for just 12 snaps). He has not played the last two games. Does this mean Maroney is slipping down the depth chart? Or is it simply a case of the Patriots limiting his injury risk? The game against the Giants might help provide the answer to those questions.
5. Sorting out the second-unit offensive line. With the final roster cut to 53 scheduled for Saturday, a few of the back-end roster spots could still be up for grabs, specifically on the offensive line. Rookies Ted Larsen (center/guard) and Thomas Welch (offensive tackle) and second-year players Ryan Wendell (center/guard) and Rich Ohrnberger (center/guard) are some of the key players to watch in that area.
3hDianna Russini and Adam Schefter
15hEric D. Williams
1dBy Dan Graziano