Three things to watch in the Patriots first preseason game against New Orleans at Gillette tonight (7:30 p.m., WBZ):
1. Welcome rookies
The Patriots pleasantly surprised many by drafting two big, powerful rookies in the first round in Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Both rookies have had impressive camps thus far by all accounts, with many believing that Jones can already start for the Pats. Patriots fans will get their first real chance to see them go live, and what better way to begin their pro careers than by trying to stop Drew Brees and the Saints Defensive back Tavon Wilson also has had a solid camp and should get decent burn, and look for undrafted running back Brandon Bolden to get some snaps. Jake Bequette has been quiet thus far in camp.
2. Offensive line issues
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Patriots offensive line going into tonight’s game, and it could make what will be a short outing for Tom Brady even shorter. Always-reliable left tackle Matt Light has retired, All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins is still recovering from offseason surgery, and All-Pro right guard Brian Waters has yet to report. O-line mainstay Sebastian Vollmer missed practice on Wednesday, too.
3. On the defensive
The Patriots should improve upon their 31st ranked ‘D’ from last season. Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling look to start at opposite ends at cornerback, and it will be interesting to see what a healthy Dowling can do and if McCourty can rebound from a down sophomore year. Pass rush is still a concern as well, so be on the lookout for any rookie defensive ends that make noise.