Three things for Patriots fans to keep an eye on Monday night (8 p.m., ESPN) when the Philadelphia Eagles invade Gillette Stadium:
O-line any better?
One of the biggest issues in camp is the cohesiveness of the offensive line. It’s undoubtedly strange for Tom Brady to not have his reliable left tackle, Matt Light, protecting his blind side anymore, but Brady has no choice but to move on. Second-year offensive lineman Nate Solder will take over, and hopefully fare better than he did against the Saints. Left guard Logan Mankins is back practicing with the team as well, but you won’t see him tonight. Still no sign of right guard Brian Waters though. The Patriots can have all the offensive weapons in the world, but without a capable o-line, it’ll be ugly.
Test for defense
While they’ve yet to get it all together, the Eagles boast one of the better offenses in the NFL: Mike Vick at QB, LeSean McCoy at RB, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver – to name a few. I’m keeping an eye on the Patriots secondary, specifically safeties Pat Chung and Steve Gregory. Gregory was signed by the Pats in the offseason, and he and Chung have jelled nicely on the practice field. Bill Belichick seems happy with what he’s seen at the position but notes that communication starting with the safeties is an integral part of the defense’s success. With all those offensive weapons, they’ll need to be on the same page.
Running out of time
Going into the second preseason game, there’s no real frontrunner for the starting running back position. Stevan Ridley has still shown some issues holding on to the ball, and it has opened the door for fellow second-year back, Shane Vereen. Vereen could take advantage of his situation with a strong start against the Eagles’ starters tonight. He’s been a nice pass catching back in camp, but showed his skill on the ground against the Saints. Keep a close eye on the playing time and production of each back, as it’s become a true camp battle.