Three things to watch in the Patriots preseason finale against the Super Bowl champion Giants:
Nothing more to see here
The Patriots made at least one surprising cut when Jabar Gaffney got the heave-ho on Monday. Donte Stallworth followed him out the door. That essentially ended the Patriots’ wide receiver competition, with Deion Branch emerging as the victor. Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez (who you’ll see being used as a wide receiver often), and Rob Gronkowski will be Tom Brady’s other main targets – but it would be shocking to see much – if any – of them tonight vs. the Giants. Despite a relatively poor offensive showing this postseason, Brady and his receivers should be the least of worries once the regular season begins. Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer should split time at QB tonight (7 p.m., WBZ).
Last chance for O-line
Part of the Patriots’ big issue on offense has been quarterback protection, specifically at the right and left tackle positions. Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, come on down! These two guys have been under the microscope since camp opened, and they’ll get one more chance to prove they can stand the heat before the regular season begins. Logan Mankins will steady things, but still no sign of Brian Waters. And will Dan Koppen make the team? We can already hear Gisele after Week 1 … “My husband cannot [expletive] throw the ball and block at the same time! I can’t believe they missed a block so many times!”
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The Patriots defense isn’t going to rank at the very top of the league, but it would be a major disappointment if they didn’t make some big improvements from last season. The goal over the offseason seemed to be to shore up the pass defense. A couple of first rounders in Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower look to contribute in a big way starting Week 1, while a couple of other defensive rookies – former Ohio State rugby standout Nate Ebner, playing safety, and Illinois safety Tavon Wilson have done enough to earn spots. Defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham has looked good in camp, as has Kyle Love. The Pats ‘D’ just might be worth a late pick in your fantasy draft this year.