After months of waiting, football is officially back. Well, the pre-season that is. Regardless, there will be plenty to keep an eye on in the New England Patriots’ opening pre-season game against the Washington Redskins. The team has multiple players out to prove themselves this pre-season and it all starts tonight’s matchup.
Deatrich Wise Jr. (DE)
The Patriots’ pass-rushing is a bit of a question mark this season, and it’ll be interesting to see which players step up. Deatrice Wise Jr. is one of those players who will be in the discussion for more playing time this season, and he will have the chance to contribute in tonight’s game. Wise showed potential last season, finishing with five sacks in limited playing time, but could bring more to the table with strong production this pre-season. While it is pre-season and he’ll likely be facing off against back-up offensive linemen, Wise can still impress the coaching staff with strong play. He certainly has the speed, power moves and technique to gain some attention during the pre-season.
Duke Dawson (CB)
Being drafted in the second round, there are some higher expectations for Duke Dawson who is competing for a spot as the team’s nickel corner-back. As a shorter corner-back, Dawson’s ability to match-up against bigger receivers will be something to keep an eye on, as with strong play Dawson could earn a big role in the Patriots’ secondary this season. The Patriots have struggled in past years against slot receivers and Dawson could be the guy to solve that issue. As a physical corner, Dawson’s production against NFL receivers will be interesting to watch. Again, it’s still pre-season and he likely won’t be facing off against the cream of the crop, but we’ll be able to get a sense of what he can bring to the team through his play this pre-season and it begins tonight.
Former second round pick Cyrus Jones, who has been a bit of a disappointment so far, will need to have a strong pre-season to earn a spot on the 53- man roster. From botched kick-off and punt returns to injuries, Jones is by no means a lock to make the roster. Like Dawson, he’ll be competing to play as the team’s nickel/slot corner this season, but he’ll need to perform at a high level to earn Bill Belichick’s trust again. He showed potential in past pre-seasons, but he’s currently on a short leash which adds to the importance of his performance. It starts tonight, where he should find plenty of opportunity to prove himself.
Cordarelle Patterson (WR)
Cordarrelle Patterson will get plenty of opportunity to prove himself this pre-season whether that’s on special teams or in the passing game. With Malcolm Mitchell’s recent departure, Patterson figures to get some playing time and it’ll be interesting to see how much they use him during tonight’s game. The Patriots’ wide receiving competition is competitive this season with Julian Edelman‘s looming four-game suspension, and Patterson can impress during the pre-season. He has had a strong training camp so far, and will just need to perform in game action.
Derek Rivers (DE)
Coming off an injury-riddled rookie year, Derek Rivers will finally get the chance to show what he’s capable of this pre-season. Rivers’ versatility will be something to focus on as he’ll likely get some snaps at both line-backer and defensive-end. The Patriots will be looking for talent in their defensive line which is why a strong showing from Rivers is important. It remains to be seen how much playing time he gets in the opening pre-season game as he is coming off an injury, but if healthy, Rivers could be someone to keep an eye on in his second year in the league.