New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

New England Patriots vs New York Giants Preseason Preview

The New England Patriots hit the road for New Meadowlands Stadium to face the New York Giants for their final tune-up before the regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 12th. The Patriots will get their first look at the New Meadowlands against the Giants Thursday night, and the experience will likely benefit the team in Week 2, when they return to face their division rival New York Jets.

The major question mark in this contest is will the Patriots play their starters at all, and if they do, for how long. If history is any indication, the Patriots starters will only play a series or two before giving way to the backups. This game is really a chance for the Patriots organization to evaluate their fringe players, and finalize their roster.

Based on practice attendance this week, wide receiver Julian Edelman, rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, safety Brandon McGowan, tight end Aaron Hernandez, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur; 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.

Patriots fans should pay attention to the young secondary that will be without Leigh Bodden, who said on his twitter that he is undergoing surgery on his rotator cuff today. Another aspect to watch from a Patriots perspective are guys on the bubble who will likely get an extended opportunity on Thursday night. Here are the guys to watch and why:

Tyrone McKenzie: The Patriots 2009 third-round draft selection hasn’t seen much playing time in three preseason games so far as rookie Brandon Spikes has seen the majority of work at inside linebacker. McKenzie looks like the fourth inside linebacker on the depth chart behind Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton and Spikes. McKenzie figures to see extended playing time against the Giants, to prove he belongs on this roster.

Eric Alexander and Pierre Woods: At this point, Woods is a pure special teams contributor, and is more likely to win a roster spot over Alexander. Keep an eye on the playing time for both on special teams, and how many units each are on.

Marques Murrell: Murrell has had an outstanding preseason, but is no sure bet to make the roster at this point, expect Belichick to give Murrell a long look against the Giants.

Matthew Slater: His contributions have come mainly on special teams in his first two seasons, and is a longshot to make the roster unless he has a huge game on Thursday night. Sam Aiken is almost a lock to make the roster at this point over Slater.

Sergio Brown: He certainly is a dark horse candidate to make this roster as a special teams contributor and reserve safety. Brown, a rookie out of Notre Dame has held his own and will make this team if the Patriots keep five safeties (as I suspect they will).

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: At some point, Laurence Maroney will play on Thursday night, that is for certain. How much the Patriots play the Law Firm will be an indication of whether or not he will make the final roster. BJGE is too good for the Patriots to cut, because he would be picked up by another team in a heartbeat, so he should make this roster.

Reserve offensive linemen: With the final roster cut scheduled for Saturday, a few of the back-end of the 53 roster spots could still be up for grabs, sespecially 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 on Thursday night, this could be a make or break game for them.

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