New England Patriots football is back, preseason game v. the Jaguars

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jacoby Brissett
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jacoby Brissett /

New England Patriots football will truly return this week as the team hosts joint practices ahead of their first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Football is nearly back for us New England Patriots fans! Diehards will have been following for the entire offseason and into training camp, but now even the casual fan will get involved.

Although the preseason is nothing like regular season action, it will provide us with our first look at this 2017 Patriots squad and all of its newcomers.

On Monday, the New England Patriots began joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those will continue throughout the week until their preseason matchup on Thursday at Gillette Stadium. Here are things I’m watching for in practice, and some things I’m excited to see in the game!

How much has Jacoby Brissett improved?

While most of the offseason talk has surrounded quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots have another QB that started for them last season. Jacoby Brissett will enter his second season in the NFL. Last year, in surprise game action, Brissett threw for 400 yards over three games. He didn’t find the end zone in the air but he did on a perfectly executed scramble.

Some think he may not make this New England team, but I certainly believe he will. Brissett should see a lot of playing time on Thursday night. Tom Brady may play a series, but he may not enter the game at all. Garoppolo will likely play until half time, and from there it could be all Brissett.

I’m excited to see if Brissett has taken skills from Brady and Garoppolo to make a second-year jump. If he proves to be a solid backup, it could one day speed up the ushering out of Tom Brady in favor of Jimmy Garoppolo.

Will we get a tease of Brandin Cooks?

I hope we get to see Brandin Cooks on the field for the Patriots for at least two series. In the first, he’d just be adjusting to the game speed after a long offseason, but in the second I’d like to see the ball thrown his way.

Cooks may be the biggest addition to the Patriots this season, and fans are eager to see what he has in store for 2017. Let’s get him involved early, and get the fans excited for what this year may hold for New England.

How will Wise, Rivers, and Ealy replace Ninkovich?

When Rob Ninkovich announced his retirement last week, it thrust the pressure onto Kony Ealy, Deatrich Wise, and Derek Rivers. They will be the top options to replace Ninkovich’s pass rush abilities this season.

Ealy was brought over from the Carolina Panthers, while Rivers and Wise were added in the NFL Draft. The two rookies will have to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, and Ealy is looking to rejuvenate his career. I’m expecting to see at least one-half of play from each of these guys, and I’m anxious to see if they can pressure the Jaguars QBs.

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Will Mike Gillislee step up?

Mike Gillislee is reportedly the favorite to land the staring role in the Patriots backfield. He’ll be in stiff competetion with James White until the home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, but a strong preseason showing can go a long way. Like Cooks, I don’t expect to see Gillislee on the field too much in the first game against Jacksonville. He can do a lot of his on-field talking through the joint practices this week.

Gillislee though should play a little in the game, and it will be interesting to see how he’s utilized in New England’s offense.

Tons of playing time for Harvey Langi?

Harvey Langi has impressed so far in New England Patriots training camp. Now, he’ll get the chance to showcase his skills against an actual opponent. Langi should continue to get a ton of reps in practice, and I think he’ll play a majority of the snaps on Thursday night.

Langi was all over the place in college, so adjusting to playing just a linebacker role in the NFL could be a challenge. For now, it seems like Langi will earn a roster spot, but as always, rookies need to prove themselves in these joint practices and preseason games. Watch him as the week unfolds.

Next: Stephon Gilmore brings attitude to New England secondary

So, what are you most excited for from the Patriots this week? Let us know on Twitter @CandCFanSided or in the comments here below!