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5 things to watch in Saturday’s Patriots-Texans preseason game

Ryan Hannable
August 19, 2017 - 6:00 am

After two joint practices with the Texans in West Virginia this week, the two teams will meet in Houston Saturday night for the second preseason game. It is of course the site of the Patriots’ 34-28 Super Bowl LI win over the Falcons.

While it is just the second preseason game, there will be a few things learned from the contest, especially going up against one of the better teams in the AFC.

Here are five things to keep an eye on in the game.

Quarterback play

Tom Brady and the first stringers didn’t play at all in the first game, but that should change Saturday night. Brady and the first-team offense should get to play a few series’, likely a quarter. This should be the first time we'll see Brady-Brandin Cooks on the field in a real game together. Don’t expect to see some other big name players out there, especially Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2012. It's possible Julian Edelman could fall into this category as well. It will be interesting to see how Jimmy Garoppolo performs off a solid game last week, and then Jacoby Brissett will likely get mop-up duty in the fourth quarter. The second-year quarterback might have the most pressure to perform considering his rough start to camp this summer.

How do the offensive tackles look?

The only issue with playing Brady in the game is he won’t have much protection from his backside. Left tackles Nate Solder and Tony Garcia haven’t practiced all week and then LaAdrian Waddle was injured in Wednesday’s session. This leaves Cameron Fleming, Conor McDermott and Cole Croston as the only options at left tackle in the game. With Waddle reportedly back in Boston, it could be a big night for Fleming as he battles with Waddle for the final offensive tackle spot on the roster. McDermott’s development is also worth keeping an eye on as he’s looked much improved in recent sessions.

Who plays defensive end?

With Derek Rivers reportedly out for the season with a torn ACL, this will the first indication as to how the Patriots might look to replace him and Rob Ninkovich at defensive end. The thought could be to move a few linebackers — Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin and Harvey Langi — to the edge. Hightower (PUP) and McClellin (injured) haven’t participated all week, so it could be a big night for Langi. Also, watch for Geneo Grissom, who could get a chance to prove he deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster.

Can Cyrus Jones and Jordan Richards rebound?

It was a tough first preseason game for both Jones and Richards, and they will hope to bounce back on Saturday. Jones gave up two long touchdown passing plays, so he will look to limit the big plays allowed. It’s also worth keeping an eye on him in the punt return game. He didn’t bobble any last week and the team can only hope that will continue this week as it hopes he can be the main guy to keep Edelman and Danny Amendola on the sidelines. Richards was involved in one of the long touchdown passes and also the long rushing touchdown. The third-year safety is in danger of not making the final 53-man roster and needs to have a good showing to help prove his case.

Battle for third tight end spot

It appears like Matt Lengel, James O’Shaughnessy and Jacob Hollister are all battling for one spot. Lengel didn’t practice this week so is unlikely to play. Hollister had a great game last Thursday, but it would appear as of now O’Shaughnessy may have a slight edge because of his special teams contributions. If Hollister has another game like last week, he could jump ahead of him, but this position will likely come down to the final day to decide.

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