5 Players to Watch in Tonight’s Preseason Opener
Photo Credit: CBS Boston
Spoiler alert: Tom Brady will not play tonight, sorry to disappoint. But there is plenty of talent to watch tonight as rookies and new faces to the team make their debuts tonight.
Here are the ones to keep your eyes on tonight.
The first thing that everyone will arguably look at is who takes the first snaps under center.
Fans undoubtedly want to see the rookie quarterback out of Auburn.
Jarrett Stidham had a rocky start to training camp with problems with accuracy and holding the ball too long.
But as training camp has gone on, he has impressed many experts and even veterans on offense, including running back James White.
“He’s got good command. It’s tough being a quarterback on any team, especially on our offense,” White told reporters. “There’s a lot you have to know. He’s trying to put the work in, trying to learn as much as possible, and all of the young guys and us veterans are trying to make him feel comfortable and make some plays for him.”
Brian Hoyer has been a stable backup and that is all he will ever be. Nobody knows Stidham’s ceiling yet and tonight is the first step in finding out.
The first round wide receiver makes his debut tonight and is the one player fans are dying to see.
Harry sustained a leg injury this week in practice but came back and continued fielding balls.
Even Detroit Lions All-Pro Darius Slay had nothing but praise for the Arizona State University alum.
“He’s a big boy, man,” Slay told The Athletic’s Nick Underhill. “He’s aggressive. He looks like he’s gonna be a big tool for [the Patriots].”
Even with the praise, Harry has not played well enough in the eyes of coaches to earn time over Jakobi Meyers on the first-team offense. The first snaps of today’s game will be very telling of where Harry is at in terms of the playbook and his rapport with the quarterbacks.
If Meyers has been the best player on offense in camp, Winovich has been doing it just as well on defense.
The Michigan alum has been beating offensive linemen in one on one’s and winning trench battles in scrimmages consistently along with defensive end Michael Bennett.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower voiced praised for the Michigan product. Going as far as saying he cannot tell he is a rookie.
“He acts like he’s done it for a while, and he definitely follows the role of [John] Simon or Kyle [Van Noy] or Jamie [Collins] or whoever,” Hightower said to patriots.com. “Whoever he’s working with, he does a good job of just being a sponge.”
Again, practice is practice and he will definitely be someone worth watching to see if his skills transition to game action.
In case you forgot, yes the Patriots did draft a punter this year.
Jake Bailey prior to being selected by the Super Bowl champions, was voted First Team All-Pac 12 in 2017 and 2018.
Why did head coach Bill Belichick draft a punter in the fifth round? Well if there is one thing that is coach loves, it is versatility.
Bailey spent his time at Stanford not only as a punter, but also as a kickoff specialist.
In his college career, 82 percent of Bailey’s kickoffs were touchbacks—an incredible statistic.
Along with his versatility, there are many ways the drafting of Bailey spells the end for Ryan Allen era in New England.
Allen who ironically is also around the same age as Zoltan Mesko when he took his place, is set to hand the team a $1,500,000 cap hit. All the while, Bailey’s hit stands at only $567,245.
Fans and media need to watch Bailey for two reasons. Will he take kickoff duties and who gets more chances to punt the ball.
The one player that media and fans alike will be watching through the biggest binoculars. Meyers has played his way from camp body to Brady’s No.1 target in training camp.
Meyers has exhibited everything his quarterback wants in his targets. Ball awareness, great hands, and most importantly synchronization with each other.
The hype is there, but many players have faded when transitioning from the training camp field to the big show.
One thing to watch as well is if he takes the field over N’Keal Harry for the first offensive snaps.
Will the NC State alum make his case to continue taking first-team reps? It is all about making it happen when the flag goes up.