New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

5 Things to Watch for in New England’s Preseason Debut vs. Saints

It’s hard to believe, but the start of preseason for the New England Patriots is just hours away—and before you know it, Week 1 of the regular season will be here.

This is definitely one of my most favorite times of the year—it’s right up there with Christmas. There’s nothing better than gearing yourself up for the start of another NFL season.

With that being said, let’s take a look at five things to watch for in New England’s preseason debut against the New Orleans Saints.

1. New England’s Offensive Line: Who knows how New England’s starting offensive line will look by Week 1, but thus far, the unit has not looked good against the Saints in their joint practices. Two players to keep close attention to is second-year left tackle Nate Solder, who is the heir to the now retired Matt Light. Left tackle is arguably the most important position on the 0-line, as it protects the quarterback’s blind-side. If Solder doesn’t perform well, then it’s going to be a very long season for Tom Brady. Also be sure to keep an eye on Marcus Cannon, who is a second-year offensive guard. It appears that the TCU product will be filling in at right guard, in-place of the missing Brian Waters—who has yet to report to training camp.

2. Tom Brady: Well, isn’t this a bit obvious? For starters, who knows if Tom Brady is even going to play as he didn’t take one snap in last year’s preseason debut. However, if Brady does play, we’ll definitely be taking note to how he sets the tone and how well the offense flows with him under-center.

3. Defensive End Chandler Jones and Linebacker Dont’a Hightower: Thursday night will be the debut of first-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Both are highly regarded propects with a ton of potential—enough potential for them to both make huge first-year impacts in 2012.

4. Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer: Who will win the battle to backup Tom Brady? Many believe that Ryan Mallett has the stuff to do so, but it’s just a matter of him proving himself in the preseason. As for Hoyer, he’s arguably the best backup quarterback in the NFL and could be a key trading chip for New England in the upcoming offseason. If Hoyer wants to potentially land a starting job elsewhere, then he’s going to have to continue performing at a high level whenever he gets the chance.

5. Brandon Lloyd: Tom Brady’s new weapon, and potentially his most lethal weapon. We all know that Brandon Lloyd has all the talent in the world and has performed incredibly well in Josh McDaniels’ offensive system, but we don’t know how well he’ll play with Brady. However, throughout training camp it appears that everything is going just fine with the Brady-to-Lloyd connect. Now it’s just a matter of the new duo to prove themselves on the field in a live-action game, not just practice and scrimmages.

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