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BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football in their second preseason game of the season tonight, but this game won’t be your ordinary preseason tilt.
The Patriots will play three games over the next 10 days, giving Bill Belichick and his coaching staff another thing to ponder when it comes to playing time. With just three days between their meeting with the Eagles and playing the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, the Patriots will likely choose to play their starters even less Monday night, keeping them fresh for Friday’s third preseason game – viewed as the most important game that doesn’t count.
No one really knows what, or who, to expect in New England’s second preseason game Monday night, but here are a few keys to look out for.
Stevan Ridley got the start against the New Orleans Saints in the Patriots’ first preseason game, but Vereen led the way on the ground statistically for the Patriots. Vereen finished with a team-high 11 carries for 64 yards, with 62 of those yards coming on the first series of the third quarter. Ridley is not expected to suit up Monday night after leaving Thursday’s practice early and sitting out Friday’s session due to a right leg injury, so it will likely be more of Vereen and Brandon Bolden against the Eagles.
Monday night is a big opportunity for both to show off what they can bring to the team. It will important for them to take advantage.
The New England offensive line did not play at its best against the Saints. Second-year tackle Nate Solder had a tough evening, getting whistled for a pair of holding calls and getting beat a number of times by the Saints’ pass rush. Brady only lasted 15 plays, but was mauled by Will Smith on one of them.
The offensive line should get better just simply by having Logan Mankins back on the field. He returned to practice last week after recovering from offseason ACL surgery, and just having the four-time Pro Bowler out there will make Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett much more comfortable.
But he can’t hold back the entire defensive line, and he likely won’t play all that much in his first action since the surgery, so everyone else on the Pats’ O-line will still need to step up and start showing improvement.
Fellow rookie Chandler Jones stole all the attention from the Saints game, earning everything from defensive rookie of the week honors from writers to getting a place reserved for him in Canton, Ohio.
So we’ve seen what Jones can do. Now it’s time for rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower to show off his stuff. He finished the first preseason game with four tackles and a quarterback hit. He said during the week he wants to dominate this game. With playmakers like LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson on the field for the Eagles, it will be a good opportunity for Hightower to see if he can do just that against tough offensive opponents.
Spikes will see his first preseason action of the season, and get his first opportunity to show everyone if he has become a shark or not.
Spikes has the ability to change the game defensively, whether it be by stopping the run or delivering a bone-crushing hit on the quarterback. It’s important for Spikes to get into a defensive rhythm, and more importantly stay healthy, this preseason.
Tune in to the Patriots-Eagles preseason game on 98.5 The Sports Hub! Coverage begins Monday night at 5pm with Patriots Pregame!