Three storylines to watch as the Patriots play their final 2014 pre-season game Thursday (7:30 p.m., CBS-4) at MetLife Stadium:
Logan to the airport Patriots players were simply stunned by the news that captain Logan Mankins was traded away Tuesday.
“He’s the type of guy … you don’t know if you’ll get that type of teammate ever again,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “Since I’ve been here, he’s a guy you look up to, and I’m a defensive back and that’s watching the offensive line. Tampa is going to get one hell of a player.”
It’s easy to look back at the regular season opener against Buffalo in 2003, days after the release of Lawyer Milloy, and recall that the Patriots were not emotionally prepared to win a football game. Thursday’s game against the Giants is only an exhibition, but if players aren’t focused there’s always a greater chance of injury.
Beyond the emotional state of the team, the Pats must find a replacement at left guard. Josh Kline is listed as the first team starter on the Patriots’ website, but it’s unlikely that Bill Belichick has any direct contact with the digital communications department in Foxboro. Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon remain options for the job in addition to Kline.
Mallett's future in Garoppolo's hands? Some found it odd that Jimmy Garoppolo was named the starter for the Giants game and even stranger that it was hinted that the rookie will likely play the full 60 minutes in New Jersey. But the Patriots have had four full training camps now to look at Ryan Mallett. It’s safe to say they know what they have in the former Arkansas star.
But if Garoppolo is again lights-out Thursday, there’s a good chance the Pats will either deal or release Mallett before Saturday’s 53-man roster deadline. What’s the point of carrying three quarterbacks when you’re certain the No. 2 is legit?
Garoppolo’s overall numbers this pre-season have been tremendous: 26-of-35 for 343 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 119.5 average rating.
Final battle There are still positions to be won Thursday night as there are situations at running back, receiver, defensive line, linebacker and the secondary that need to be sorted out. The battle at running back is intriguing.
It’s seems likely that Stevan Ridley will get the first carry for the Pats Week 1 in Miami, but Shane Vereen got eight carries against the Panthers last week. Vereen is already a huge threat in the passing game, but are the Pats ready to make him an every down guy?
Then there are the cases of Jonas Gray (nine carries, 20 yards vs. Carolina) and James White (four carries, 15 yards vs. Carolina), Roy Finch and Brandon Bolden. All are battling for position on the depth chart and roster as a whole.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter:@BurkeMetroBOS