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Patriots vs. Giants: 3 To Watch - DEFENSE

As the New England Patriots prepare to take on the New York Giants, Patriots Country highlights three defensive players on whom Pats fans might want to keep watch.

FOXBORO — The New England Patriots are set to open their 2022 preseason slate on Thursday, Aug. 11 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts.

The Pats will welcome the New York Giants for the first of two preseason contests to be held in New England this summer.

With an expected capacity crowd to cheer on the hometown team, the Pats will continue to use each opportunity to learn, improve and prepare for the upcoming 2021 season.

Though many players are expected to garner some attention during Thursday’s matchup, here are three members of New England’s defense that might raise an eyebrow … or perhaps, catch a ‘sharp eye’ when the Pats take the field against the Giants.

Joshuah Bledsoe

Bledsoe has been one of the pleasant surprises at the start of training camp. The former 2021 sixth-round pick out of Missouri has been competitive in coverage against the Patriots tight ends, as well as their receivers. He has been credited with five passes-defensed during training camp, while logging notable playing time with the Pats’ starting unit. His ideal fit would feature him in the D-gap/slot, in a big-nickel-heavy defensive scheme featuring man-to-man coverage assignments. Bledsoe could be an option as a third safety who subs in on late downs to play man coverage down closer to the line of scrimmage.

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While New England has a solid trio of safeties in Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips employed in their base defense, Bledsoe could add some depth to the position as the Pats head into 2022. Seeing that the aforementioned veterans may see only limited time on Thursday, Bledsoe may be poised to play significant minutes in New England’s defensive backfield.

Marcus Jones

Despite some questions about his health heading into training camp, Jones has been neither limited, nor disappointing in his action on the field, thus far. The Houston product is a phenomenal athlete with breakaway speed — known for displaying tremendous athleticism on pass defense and outstanding open-field tackles. While Jones’ camp usage clearly indicates the team’s intentions to deploy him as a slot corner, his elite return skills make him an intriguing option for the Patriots, who place a premium on special teams prowess.

At the end of the day, Jones may best project in the Patriots system as their slot defender of the future, primarily because of his size and movement skills. Although he has experience playing outside, he will serve as a depth player in New England’s secondary for the short term. His elite return game may see him take on the duties as the Pats primary kick returner. Jones’ ability to log double duty on defense, as well as special teams, make hims worth monitoring on Thursday against New York’s starters and reserves.

Henry Anderson

After a pectoral injury derailed his first season with the club, Anderson has played at a high level during camp in 2022 among the Pats’ defensive linemen. He has proven himself capable of playing all over the defensive front, having aligned everywhere from the 9-technique [edge] spot to the 0-technique [nose] position. With New England having struggled in defending mobile quarterbacks in 2021, the Pats will likely look to move Anderson around the line, to help create favorable matchups for him on Thursday.

At his best, Anderson is a stout run defender. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated great skill when moving quickly into position to stop the run. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he posted the third-highest run-stuff rate among players with at least 500 defensive snaps in 2020. His camp usage, to date, indicates that he will be heavily utilized in run defense packages.

In 2022, his most significant contributions to New England’s defense will likely come against the run. Anderson has also performed well against the pass, routinely applying pressure to the quarterback. Prior to becoming one of the Jets’ premier run defenders, he notched seven sacks and 16 quarterback hits in 2018. As such, Anderson should provide an extra boost to the Patriots pass defense, in addition to his prowess as a run defender.