Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/18/14

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on in the first half against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

For Patriots fans it is finally here, players get to hit something for real and the races for roster spots will begin.  The New England Patriots will take to the field for the first time Thursday at home, while their opponents the  New Orleans Saints will play for the second time this preseason (after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 17-10 in the Hall of Fame game).

There will be plenty of storylines for this game, and here are a few to preview

  • Offensive line – This is the biggest concern on the team.  A group that protected QB Tom Brady fairly well (Brady was sacked 32 times, 13 most in the NFL in 2011), have three members from the starting unit out.  LT Matt Light has retired, LG  Logan Mankins still recovering from ACL surgery and RG Brian Waters sitting at home deciding if he wants to continue playing.  This leaves 2nd year players Nate Solder to replace Light, Marcus Cannon to replace Mankins, while Dan Koppen  will come back from last season ending IR to jump back into the C, most likely moving last year C Dan Connelly over to RG and often injured 4th year tackle Sebastian Vollmer to play LT.  If I was Brady, I would create eyes in the back of my helmet as these moves leave things a little uncertain and with unproven depth behind these starters.  The Patriots are hoping that other  players show some ability and create some depth.  This will be an area the team will watch the waiver wire on, as well as keep in touch with Waters.
  • Defensive line – Everyone is looking forward to seeing the new revamped front seven and how the youth movement of rookies DE Chandler Jones and ILB Dont’a Hightower will improve their ability to rush the quarterback and not allowing opposing QB time to pick apart the secondary
  • Devin McCourty – Which version do we get? 2010 All Pro or 2011 that got picked on any chance teams had. This will develop during the camp
  • Branch, Stallworth or Gaffney – I think this really comes down to Stallworth and Branch.  Whichever can contribute in more ways than one will win this as both are familiar with the system and Brady.  This would be better for the loser to be done by week two, allowing them to catch one with another team.
  • Back-up QB battle.  The team is hoping a battle between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett begins allowing the team an opportunity to move one to another team.  My feeling is Hoyer has reached his ceiling here and would be bring the biggest value to another team.
  • Special teams- The team needs to find ways to improve the return game and avoid being backed up deep in their side of the field.  We know Brady can move the offense quickly and from everywhere, but this would make it easier and avoid him having to do it every time.
  • Injuries – They are going to happen, just make sure Brady, K Stephen Goskowski, P Zoltan Mesko avoid major contact.

The team has the easiest schedule during the regular season, so expectations of a 12-4, 13-3 or even a 14-2 season are not out of the discussion, but they need to figure out the offensive line and keep Brady safe.  As we found out in 2008 without him, the team went 11-5, but missed the playoffs.  The need to create an offensive line that will protect him.

Line them up and let’s play some football, even if it is pre-season.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Charles Barkley: JR Smith should be suspended 10 games

Kelly Olynkyk: I'd probably get killed if I went to Cleveland

Report: Redskins likely to pick up Robert Griffin III's option

Eagles trying to trade Marcus Smith for another duck?

Chris Paul-Blake Griffin no longer a fragile relationship

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Marijuana reportedly found in Jon Jones' car after crash

Adam Wainwright injury leaves innings void for Cardinals

Report: Cowboys not in running for Adrian Peterson

Kevin Love injury a powerful argument for playoff reform

Jon Jones wanted for questioning in hit and run

Pitcher throws perfect game with 23 strikeouts, still loses

Mark Cuban and the inevitable playoff peril of the Mavs

Wizards made Raptors look bad while remaking themselves

Previewing Game 7 showdown between Islanders and Capitals

WATCH: Rick Carlisle tapes mouth shut so he can't rip refs

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the quarterbacks

Greg Hardy faces teammate, Cowboys locker room leak

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce burns Raptors fans with epic troll job

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

WATCH: Former NBA’er Darko Milicic is enjoying life

WATCH: Alex Gordon leaps into stands for incredible catch

WATCH: JR Smith ejected for hitting Jae Crowder in face

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Worst picks ever by every NFL franchise

Report: Marijuana found in Jones' car

Report: Cowboys not in on Peterson

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the QBs

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce trolls Raptors fans

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

Darko Milicic is enjoying life

Pitcher throws perfect game, still loses

Will Aldridge leave the Blazers?

Alex Gordon leaps into stands for catch

Dana White: No more WWE for Rousey

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.