Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

5 reasons to care about Patriots-Giants preseason finale

Ryan Hannable
August 30, 2018 - 10:11 am

Yes, it’s hard to get excited about a fourth preseason game, but there are a few storylines that will make Thursday’s Patriots-Giants game worth watching.

It’s unclear whether the starters will play or not, but based on what has happened in the past when the team opens the regular season on a Sunday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of them see limited action.

After Thursday, the rosters will be cut down to 53 players (Saturday at 4 p.m.), which means this is the last chance for many to prove they are worthy of making the team.

Here are five things to watch in the game.

1. Cyrus Jones

This could be a big night for Jones, who saw his first action of the summer last week in Carolina. He didn’t see any action until the second half, though. Besides his cornerback duties, he returned all the kicks and punts. It would appear he’s on the bubble to make the roster and needs a strong showing to solidify his roster spot. It’s worth watching when he’s playing. If he plays much of the first half and gets the rest of the night off, that is a good sign. But, if he’s playing deep into the second half, perhaps that’s a sign he will be left off the roster.

2. Wide receiver position

The final roster spot still appears to be up for grabs. If Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios (he’s missed last two games), or Devin Lucien have a strong performance, maybe it’s enough to convince the coaching staff they are deserving of the final receiver spot. If not, the team could look outside the organization for another body, or from this perspective, the best option is just to play the first four games with three receivers and have the tight ends and running backs be more involved in the passing game. Meanwhile, since Julian Edelman is out for the first four games, he could get extended playing time since it’s his last chance for action until October.

3. Which veterans are playing deep in game?

It’s worth noting who plays and who doesn’t. For example, last year undrafted rookie Adam Butler didn’t play in the game and ended up by making the team. On the flip side of that, if a veteran is getting extended time in the fourth quarter, that probably is not a good sign for him making the team. Younger players who are playing deep into the game could be auditioning for a potential spot on the practice squad, or even another team.

4. Jason McCourty

Last week we saw McCourty play safety for the first time in his entire football career. Given it was his first time, there were some issues to clean up, so it will be worth watching if the team has him back there again. If they do, it probably is a sign they plan on having him on the roster with safety adding to his versatility and making it worth keeping him. He needs more versatility because he does not play special teams. If this is the case, it could potentially mean Jordan Richards is on the hot seat.

5. Danny Etling

The rookie quarterback didn’t play at all last week in Carolina and to this point in the preseason has only played a total of 20 snaps. Typically, the final preseason game is all about the third-string quarterback — just look at what Jacoby Brissett did last year. This could be his first real chance to show off his skills at the NFL level. It could get a little interesting as if he shows well, as the Patriots would want to keep him on the practice squad, but that would also mean he would need to clear waivers. He should, but nothing is certain, especially at the QB position.

Related: Devin McCourty on D&K says training camp was hard

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