A sunlit MetLife Stadium awaits the Patriots as they conclude the preseason against the Giants. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

A sunlit MetLife Stadium awaits the Patriots as they conclude the preseason against the Giants. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As it has been the last three days in New England, it will be sunny and warm come kickoff Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium as the Patriots wrap up the preseason in their annual exhibition against the Giants.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. There could be a bit of a breeze to deal with as the forecast also predicts winds out of the northeast at 13 MPH but those could be lessened somewhat by the elevated and closed structure of MetLife Stadium.

As for who will play in this game, the biggest news figures to be the debut of second-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson for the first time since a screw was placed in his left foot during offseason surgery in March. The Patriots have been steadily giving him more and more reps during practice but this will be his first game action, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. His roster spot is likely not in any jeopardy but he has lost time in the all important battle for reps with receivers Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins, as the Patriots continue to search for downfield targets for Tom Brady.

WEEI.com’s Chris Price notes that it’s usually not a good sign for veterans if they play more than 10-15 snaps but that rule of thumb could be altered somewhat with the trade of Logan Mankins this week, as Bill Belichick and company look to firm up the starting left guard position.

The initial candidates figure to be Josh Kline, Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon.

Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will get the start and, barring injury, will likely play the entire game. The reason for that is twofold. There is no reason to expose Tom Brady to any potential injury and the Patriots would like to protect Ryan Mallett since he could be on the trade market before the regular season, especially since St. Louis lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a torn ACL last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Wright, the tight end acquired in the Logan Mankins trade, could make an appearance with the Patriots on the sidelines but might figure to stay there all night at the Patriots protect him for the regular season and since he is still acquainting himself with a new playbook.

While he won’t play, Brady is still a sidelight to this game, as he reportedly was “very upset” by the trade of his longtime starting left guard on Tuesday. Several players admitted they were stunned by the news when informed by Belichick before Tuesday’s practice.

Patriots players will have Friday off, and possibly the weekend, before returning to work next week in preparation for the Sept. 7 opener in Miami against the Dolphins. While players have Friday off, the coaches will be hard at work making decisions on final roster cuts. The Patriots, and all 32 NFL teams, must get down to the 53-man limit by 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Aaron Dobson speaks to reporters  at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Aaron Dobson speaks to reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After a long ramp up to game action, second-year receiver Aaron Dobson will reportedly finally make his preseason debut Thursday night here at MetLife Stadium against the Giants.

Dobson missed all of OTAs and minicamp as he was healing his twice-injured left foot, a stress fracture that limited his 2013 rookie season to 12 games. The decision was made in March to place a pin in the foot to help with the healing and stabilize the foot.

Now, according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Dobson has healed enough and made enough progress in practice to finally step on the field for game action after beginning training camp practice on Aug. 11.

Three players have stepped in and made a big impact in his absence. Brian Tyms, Kenbrell Thompkins and free agent Brandon LaFell have all shown big-play capability in the preseason, with Tyms likely winning a roster spot with nine catches heading into the preseason finale.

The Herald reports Dobson made the trip with the team to New Jersey and has been cleared to play.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo

Here are seven things we’€™ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Giants in the preseason finale for both teams:

Who doesn’€™t play.

When it comes to the preseason finale, it’€™s just as important to figure out who doesn’€™t play as opposed to who does play. As we detailed here, if you’€™re a starter — or even a veteran — and you find yourself on the field for anything more than 10-15 snaps on Thursday night, it’€™s a bad sign. (The only area where this might be an exception is along the interior of the offensive line, for reasons we will address shortly.) Based on the work they were able to put in last week against the Panthers when they looked mostly razor sharp on both sides of the ball, don’€™t expect many of the starters to see the field against the Giants, despite the fact that we know New York is going to roll out its starters for between 15 an 18 snaps.

The rookies.

A good chunk of this relates back to the first point — we know quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to start and get the bulk of the snaps. But given the fact that history tells us those who don’€™t play are likely to have a secure roster spot, we’€™ll be keeping an eye on a few first-year players and monitoring their playing time. Cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back James White have been among the rookies who have played well enough to land a roster spot over the course of the summer — if they end up sitting Thursday night, it’€™s a good bet they’€™ve made the roster.

Jimmy Garoppolo.

Thursday will be the first professional start for Garoppolo, and he’€™ll get a chance to show what he can do against a No. 1 defense for the first time in the preseason. The New England coaching staff will be interested in seeing him in as many different situations as possible: two-minute, end-of-half, under pressure from a steady rush, as well as a potential four-minute offense situation. Everything is on the table when it comes to evaluating Garoppolo. From this viewpoint, Ryan Mallett is still the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but the rookie will certainly get his opportunity to show what he can do come Thursday evening in North Jersey.

Who gets the majority of snaps along the interior of the offensive line.

Things were muddied even before the Patriots traded left guard Logan Mankins to the Bucs on Tuesday — at that point, the only two real questions were right guard and center. Now, it’€™s even more unclear who will play all three interior spots along the offensive line. While Dan Connolly has played both guard and center over the course of his career — but having taken more snaps at center than guard this summer — with the move on Mankins, you figure he’€™s probably more valuable to the team at guard (Mankins’€™ old spot in particular), given the fact that the Patriots have Ryan Wendell and Bryan Stork as possibilities at center. Meanwhile, the right guard spot could be a combination of Jordan Devey, Jon Halapio and Josh Kline. Or do they take Marcus Cannon from working as the backup swing tackle — a spot where he’€™s looked pretty good at all summer — and stick him back at his more natural position of guard? Lots of questions, very few answers. Hopefully, there will be some clarification Thursday against the Giants.

Kick returner.

Almost as up in the air as the interior of the offensive line. There have been several candidates at the position, but no one has managed to seize it as his own to this point in the preseason. From this viewpoint — as we explained in detail here earlier in the summer — the three best options are likely Matthew Slater, Josh Boyce and Finch. But all three have been relatively underwhelming, with Finch providing the only real fireworks with a fumble in the first preseason game but bouncing back with a pair of impressive returns against the Eagles. That being said, Boyce remains the most impressive physical presence of just about anyone on the roster, and if he could ever manage to click, would seem like a natural at the spot. Another position that could use some clarification against the Giants.

The positional battle among the safeties/special teamers.

The Patriots have five safeties/special teamers who bring roughly the same skill set to the field in Slater, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis and Patrick Chung. While it’€™s a safe bet that Slater makes it through — his speed, smarts and leadership skills make him a lock to be the special teams captain again in 2014 — the rest of the field is wide open. With a handful of cornerbacks working more and more at safety over the course of the preseason, spots along the back line will be at a premium this year. As a result, the safeties have to do everything they can to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field. When it comes to the group after Slater, Ebner likely remains second behind Slater in terms of overall importance, while Wilson has carved out a nice special teams niche for himself over the last year plus and Davis has a gonzo coverage attitude that consistently shows up on film. Some tough decisions for the coaching staff, who will likely have to cut at least one from this grouping before the start of the regular season. (For what it’€™s worth, Davis, Ebner and Wilson all have practice squad eligibility.)

The back end of the receiver depth chart.

As we previously mentioned, Boyce needs to find a way to separate himself from the rest of the pack, and if he can’€™t do it as a kick returner, he needs to bring more oomph to the passing game as a receiver. (He also has practice squad eligibility, although it might be tough to sneak a guy through who has that sort of skill set.) Feel-good story of the summer Brian Tyms has played well, but still needs to finish strong heading into cutdown weekend if he wants to be able to stick around. Tyms does offer them some roster flexibility, however, as his four-game ban means that if he does survive, he won’€™t count toward the final 53-man roster. In addition, he’€™s also a p-squad candidate.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Don't look for Julian Edelman or most of the other starters to play Thursday against the Giants.</p>
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The Cowboys have claimed defensive back Jemea Thomas off of waivers from the Patriots. Thomas, who was a sixth-round pick of New England this past spring, is a Georgia Tech product who was cut loose by the Patriots this past weekend.

The 5-foot-9, 192-pound Thomas played all four years at Tech as a defensive back, starting the final 28 games of his career on defense. As a junior, he finished second on the team with 86 tackles and four interceptions. In 2013, he started all 13 games as a senior, and led the team in solo tackles (73), total tackles (88) and pass break-ups (8). He had 9 interceptions in his last three seasons as a collegian.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

In a video on BleacherReport.com, veteran NFL reporter Jason Cole said that the trade of Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for Tim Wright and a draft pick was not well-received by Patriots players.

In a video on BleacherReport.com, veteran NFL reporter Jason Cole said that the trade of Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for Tim Wright and a draft pick was not well-received by Patriots players. In particular, he said, Tom Brady was “very upset”€ with the move.

Tom Brady had a very emotional reaction to what happened yesterday. He was not happy with this move,” Cole said. “There’€™s usually a very special bond that you have between offensive linemen and quarterbacks; quarterbacks depend on those guys so much. That relationship can get very rough at times, they’€™ll talk to each other in very harsh terms because everything is so on the line, they’€™re so nerve-wracked about it, but I will say Brady, initially, he was very upset with this trade. We’€™ll see how he reacts going forward; he usually finds his calm after a day or two.”

“€œOther players on the team were also a little bit concerned about what is the direction necessarily. I think there is some understanding that the team needed a tight end, but why would you necessarily give up a player of his caliber for a short-term fix at tight end?”

As has been reported, Cole said that the Patriots had asked Mankins to take a pay cut after the Pro Bowl in February. He also said that the savings from trading Mankins had nothing to do with trying to sign other players such as Darrelle Revis.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Former Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The 33-year-old Kelly started five games for the Patriots last season before his season ended because of a torn ACL. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder had 2 1/2 sacks for New England in 2013. He was released over the weekend.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

On Tuesday, the Patriots traded six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers for second-year tight end Tim Wright and a fourth round pick. What do you think of the deal?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Blog Author: 
WEEI
Jemea Thomas

Jemea Thomas

Just because a player is cut by the Patriots doesn’t mean they still can’t have a career in New England.

All six of the players who were released by the Patriots on Tuesday have practice squad eligibility: defensive lineman Ben Bass, defensive back Travis Hawkins, wide receiver Derrick Johnson, linebacker Deontae Skinner, defensive back Jemea Thomas and wide receiver Wilson Van Hooser were all cut loose by New England on Tuesday. However, they can all be added to the p-squad following the final series of cuts later this month, provided they pass through waivers.

Chances are better this year than in years’ past that players who are released by the team could find their way back via the practice squad, as the practice squad rosters have been expanded from eight to 10 for the 2014 season.

The two players they placed on injured reserve — running back Tyler Gaffney and linebacker Cameron Gordon — do not have practice squad eligibility, as they were placed on IR.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price