The New England Patriots are in the Meadowlands, set to partake in their third and final preseason game of 2021. New England will face the New York Giants on Sunday, August 29 at 6:00pm ET at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Prior to their matchup, the Pats and Giants participated in joint practices, on both Wednesday and Thursday in Foxboro. With final roster cut downs set for this Tuesday, August 31, both teams should be expected to expand upon their schemes, installations and positional matchups as they prepare for the upcoming season.
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players on offense that might raise an eyebrow… or perhaps, catch a ‘sharp eye’ when the Pats take the field against the Giants.
Though he has been indicated as the ‘starter’ on more than one occasion, Newton has yet to officially be named the Patriots starting quarterback for week one of the 2021 season. With rookie Mac Jones continuing to make his own convincing case for the job, the Pats incumbent quarterback should log notable minutes on Sunday evening. In his last preseason action against Philadelphia on August 19, Newton led the Pats on a commanding scoring drive; capped by a well-placed 28-yard pass through zone coverage to Jakobi Meyers for the touchdown. After missing three days of Patriots practices earlier this week, Newton returned to the field on Thursday. He put in a solid day of work, completing 4-of-6 passes during his first 11-on-11 drill of the day. Newton was nearly intercepted by Giants cornerback James Bradberry on a pass intended for receiver Kristian Wilkerson. Despite some ups and downs, he showed minimal signs of rust from his absence. He continued to look sharp and in control under center, concluding the day completing 6-of-9 passes. As he looks to secure the starting role, Newton will undoubtedly attempt to build on an overall solid camp performance.
In the wake of Sony Michel’s trade to the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday, Taylor looks to feature prominently in the Patriots plans against the Giants. Having previously been considered a player on the roster bubble, the second-year running back may have secured his spot with solid play in both of the Patriots previous preseason games. When he is at his best, the former Arizona Wildcat has the shiftiness and the skill set to be the team’s ‘change-of-pace’ back. Taylor is quite effective between-the-tackles, and can contribute as a pass catcher out of the backfield. His tireless work ethic has earned him the praise of his teammates and coaches, including running back coach Ivan Fears. Taylor may also be in line to secure a prominent role on special teams as the Pats’ primary kick returner. While the punt return role has likely been secured by All-Pro Gunner Olszewski, his speed and deceptive toughness might make him the front-runner to earn the kickoff return role this season. Should Taylor receive his share of kick return duties on Sunday evening, it may be an indication of his earning a more significant role in 2021.
Despite having a hot start to training camp, Wilkerson is facing an uphill battle to make the Patriots 53-man roster in 2021. Though his production has recently cooled a bit, some may argue that he is still deserving of that chance. Overall, Wilkerson has been impressive in camp. His skill set would make him a solid depth addition on the perimeter in an X-Receiver role. However, the Pats are already getting solid contributions at the ‘X’ from both Nelson Agholor and the currently-injured N’Keal Harry. If Harry continues to remain on the sidelines, Wilkerson’s chances of making the team may increase. Additionally, he has been getting some work on special teams drills; at one point, alongside special teams captain. Matthew Slater. It should be interesting to see the manner in which the Patriots will use him against the Giants. If the 24-year-old continues to demonstrate a dual-threat value (both on offense and in special teams) the Pats may be hard-pressed to cut him on Tuesday. However, it is not a stretch to say that Sunday might be Kristian Wilkerson’s last shot to make his case for a roster spot.