The New England Patriots have their first competitive action of 2021 on Thursday night. Some of their players will need to impress to stay on the team.
The New England Patriots are finally playing the team’s first preseason game of 2021. With a competitive training camp, the roster outlook is beginning to take shape. With limited available positions, the camp battles will now move to the game field.
Contact practices have been limited thus far, so this game will be a chance for players to show the coaches something that they haven’t had the chance to show in practice. Players will also finally get a chance to go against a different player than what they have been matching up with for most of camp.
With that, let’s get into the five Patriots players fans should keep an eye on in the preseason opener against the Washington Football Team.
New England Patriots players to watch in Preseason Week 1 vs. Washington
5. Joejuan Williams, CB
As a former 2nd round pick, Joejuan Williams is entering his third training camp with the Patriots. This may be his most important training camp and preseason since he hasn’t been able to carve out consistent playing time to this point in his career.
With Stephon Gilmore on the PUP list, Williams has been given additional opportunities to prove his worth as an outside corner. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made the most of these opportunities and seems to be routinely beat and picked on in practices. He will probably see plenty of playing time on Thursday and will need to make the most of it.
4. N’Keal Harry, WR
N’Keal Harry has been more famous in New England for disappointment rather than strong play. He was a first-round pick, and even if he was picked a bit too early, nobody completely doubted his talent and potential at the NFL level.
Harry is also entering his third year with the Patriots and hasn’t found a consistent role with the team. His agent publicly requested that the Patriots trade Harry, but there may not have been much of a trade market for him.
Unlike in previous years, Harry did not have any injury issues in training camp. He also has looked better this year than in previous training camps. Showing it in games for other teams to see could either ensure his spot on the team or it could help get him traded to another team.
3. J.J. Taylor, RB
J.J. Taylor arrived to the Patriots as an undrafted free agent last year. He was able to appear in six games and is liked by his coaches. Unfortunately, he faces an uphill battle due to the depth of the running back position.
Taylor may need to really impress coaches in the preseason games to convince them that they can move on from either Sony Michel or James White and keep Taylor in their spot on the roster. He wasn’t bad in the training camp practices, but he might not have been good enough to prove that point just yet.
2. Quinn Nordin, K
Throughout OTAs and minicamp, Quinn Nordin impressed observers with his leg strength. Although many people assumed he was just an extra leg for training camp and the preseason, he showed improvement throughout camp.
Nordin was a perfect 14-of-14 in two public practices in Gillette Stadium. On both occasions, he didn’t really have to deal with a rush as the kicks were non-contact. With Nick Folk absent from practices and potentially the game on Thursday, this could be Nordin’s shot at proving he can make enough kicks when it counts to have the Patriots consider keeping the undrafted rookie with the big leg over the consistent veteran.
1. Mac Jones, QB
Mac Jones has certainly made this training camp more interesting than any Patriots camp has been for many years. Based on reports, he has at least kept up with Cam Newton throughout most of camp with each player trading highs and lows on different days.
No matter what happens to start the regular season, it is a pretty safe bet that Jones will get a lot of playing time during the preseason. If Jones plays well in this first preseason game, perhaps the coaching staff still keeps a split of reps between him and Newton during next week’s joint practices with the Eagles. If he falters, Jones might fall back to just getting second team reps and action in the final preseason games.