Five things to look for
Some key areas to watch in tonight’s exhibition finale between the Patriots and Giants at Gillette Stadium:
Backup quarterbacks. Five-year veteran Andrew Walter and rookie free agent Brian Hoyer are expected to see the majority of action. Their performances could dictate whether the Patriots pursue a veteran in a trade or as a free agent. For Walter, this is the chance he’s been waiting for - after four rocky years in Oakland, this is a stable environment in which to show what he can do.
Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Last year, the Patriots kept five running backs on the final roster. This year, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, and Kevin Faulk appear to be locks, so the question is whether both Morris and Green-Ellis make it, or if it’s a one-or-the-other situation. Morris is returning from an undisclosed injury after missing the last two exhibition games.
Who’s the odd man out at tight end? It’s unlikely the Patriots will keep four tight ends, and Chris Baker and David Thomas have emerged as the top two. So, that leaves Benjamin Watson and Alex Smith battling for a third spot, and they figure to get the majority of playing time tonight. Other teams, such as the tight end-needy Eagles, are watching this situation closely.
Post-Bruschi linebacker spot. Veteran Paris Lenon will have a chance to prove he belongs on the final roster in the type of role Tedy Bruschi projected to play. A free agent signing from the Lions, Lenon has some position flexibility when the Patriots play a four-man line, but his work in the middle - and on special teams - will be the key consideration.
Offensive line battle comes down the stretch. With their starting line returning, and rookies Sebastian Vollmer and Rich Ohrnberger expected to make the roster, there are only a few spots available. Tackles Ryan O’Callaghan (fourth year) and Wesley Britt (fourth year), center Ryan Wendell (first year) and guard/center Billy Yates (sixth year) are fighting for jobs up front. Another option, Dan Connolly (fourth year), might not play, as he was held out of practice Tuesday.