New England Patriots: 3 things to watch for in preseason opener

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Kristian Wilkerson #17 of the New England Patriots(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

With training camp officially in the rearview mirror, it’s almost time for preseason football. The New England Patriots will be one of the first teams in action, kicking things off Thursday night against the Washington Football Team.

Preseason will have a bit of a different look this season, with each team (aside from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys) having only three games of action. Once the regular season rolls around, another game will get added to the schedule, making this the first NFL season to feature 17 regular season contests.

Regardless of how many preseason games there are, fans will certainly be looking forward to getting their first real look at this year’s Patriots team. With fans allowed back at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2019 for Friday’s in stadium practice, the atmosphere was electric, and it was just a light walkthrough going on. That atmosphere should be multiplied tenfold for Thursday night’s action.

There’s been a lot to unpack from New England’s hectic offseason, and it’s finally time to see whether their work will pay off. Here are three things to watch for during New England’s preseason opener on Thursday night.

New England Patriots thing to watch No. 3: Who stands out on offense

After having an almost stunning lack of options on offense last season, New England quickly added some new skill players to their offense during the offseason. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, their options around them will be much better than they were last season.

That has made for some interesting competition throughout training camp. Some of the new guys, such as Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, and Hunter Henry (who is currently dealing with an injury anyways) probably won’t see much time in this one. But the second level of the depth chart will have a chance to show out in this one, and it will be interesting to see who does.

Related Story. Jonnu Smith is going to be fun to watch. light

Two of the more impressive training camp outings have come from the wide receiver group in N’Keal Harry and Kristian Wilkerson. Harry has been among the most surprising standouts, especially considering he requested a trade just a couple months ago, but he has looked like a completely new receiver throughout training camp. Wilkerson on the other hand appears to have made some serious strides after spending most of last season on the practice squad.

At this point, both guys are probably competing for a spot on the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart, but they’ve certainly made it interesting. If either can make some plays on Thursday night, they will only increase their chances of making the initial 53 man roster.

Among the rest of the skill positions, two names to watch will be Devin Asiasi and J.J. Taylor. Asiasi missed most of camp after coming down with COVID, but he probably has already earned a spot on the roster by default after Dalton Keene was placed on the season-ending injured reserve a couple days ago. Taylor on the other hand looked fantastic in limited action last season, and it will be interesting to see if he can carve out a spot in a crowded running back room.

It will be interesting to see who can find a way to stand out in the first preseason game offensively, as it could be a huge determinant in who ends up making the roster and who gets cut. We’ve seen some big training camp performances, but now it’s time for these guys to translate that success into a game like environment and improve their odds of making the roster.