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Preseason opener will give new Patriots a first chance to prove themselves

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By: Bernd Buchmasser

Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

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The New England Patriots will play their first game of the season on Thursday night, welcoming the Washington Football Team to Gillette Stadium. While the game itself will be a light affair compared to regular season football, it will present another chance for the team to grow together.

Furthermore, the newest members of the organization will put on a uniform for the first time. In total, 34 players were acquired over the offseason that are still with the Patriots in some capacity. Let’s take a look at them and their outlook heading into the first preseason game of the year.

DT Montravius Adams: The former third-round draft pick was signed to a one-year contract in free agency, but he will need to look better on game day than he did in practice. After all, the Patriots are deep along the interior defensive line — especially with a player like Carl Davis looking strong recently.

WR Nelson Agholor: While Agholor was a standout performer earlier in training camp, an undisclosed injury has forced him to miss time recently. The free agency addition is therefore a realistic candidate to be held out of the game against Washington.

DE Henry Anderson: Anderson missed one practice due to injury earlier in camp, but he appears to be full-go for the first preseason contest. The 30-year-old has seen plenty of reps this summer, and projects to play a prominent role for New England’s rebuilt defensive front seven.

DT Christian Barmore: The Patriots traded up in the second round of the draft to acquire Barmore, and the Alabama product has impressed so far. However, he is dealing with an ankle injury and missed Tuesday’s practice because of it. It is unclear whether or not he will play on Thursday night.

DB Joshuah Bledsoe: Bledsoe remains on the non-football injury list and he will not play against Washington.

WR Kendrick Bourne: New England signed Bourne to a three-year contract earlier this offseason, and he has looked very good in his first training camp as a Patriot. Building a solid rapport with both Cam Newton and Mac Jones, the 26-year-old seems poised to take over a starter-level role in the Patriots’ offense this year.

OT Trent Brown: Back in New England after a disappointing two-year stint with the Las Vegas Raiders, Brown is locked into the starting right tackle position. Just like the other starters along the offensive line he will only see limited action on Thursday.

S Adrian Colbert: Colbert missed four practices this summer before returning to the practice fields on Thursday. Given that he was wearing a red non-contact jersey there is a chance he will not see any snaps against the Football Team.

S Malik Gant: After spending 2020 without an NFL team, Gant was re-signed by the Patriots earlier this week. He might see some in-game action versus Washington, trying to find his 2019 preseason groove again.

DT Davon Godchaux: Another player added during the first wave of free agency, Godchaux is projected to play a starting role for the Patriots up front. Naturally, he will not see a lot of snaps during the first preseason game. That said, he is still a player to keep an eye on after he looked very good in camp.

TE Troy Fumagalli: Even with Hunter Henry projected out and Dalton Keene on injured reserve, Fumagalli is a long shot to make the roster. That said, he has had some good moments in camp so far and should see his fair share of snaps tonight.

WR Marvin Hall: Expected to compete for a job as a kickoff returner and depth wide receiver, Hall’s usage on Thursday will show where he stands on the depth chart. Based on his training camp so far, however, it appears he still has an uphill climb ahead of him.

OT Jerald Hawkins: Hawkins was added in late July and could see the field on Thursday after the starters leave it. However, he is still on the outside looking in at the moment.

TE Hunter Henry: Dealing with a shoulder injury, Henry is not expected to suit up against Washington. The goal is to get the high-priced free agent ready for the regular season.

QB Mac Jones: All eyes will be on the Patriots’ first-round quarterback on Thursday night. The team’s future face of the franchise will make his NFL debut after a solid performance early in training camp. Will he be able to build on it during his first ever game as a pro? That remains to be seen, and could determine whether or not he indeed has any realistic chance of challenging Cam Newton’s standing as New England’s starting quarterback.

LB Matthew Judon: The Patriots handed Judon a four-year, $56 million contract in March, and he has looked the part in training camp so far. While his in-game snaps will likely be limited on Thursday, it will be fun to see him go up against a solid Washington offensive line.

C Ted Karras: With starting center David Andrews having missed back-to-back practices (once due to injury, once to the birth of his first child), Karras is next in line to take over. If Andrews is unable to go on Thursday night again, the expectation is that the offseason returnee will start the game.

LS Brian Khoury: Joe Cardona will likely be held out of Thursday’s game after suffering an injury on Sunday. The Patriots signed Brian Khoury to temporarily fill in as their long snapper; Thursday’s game will be his NFL debut.

LB Harvey Langi: Langi has seen received of reps in practice, and him being able to build on them will determine whether or not he has a realistic chance of making a deep linebacker group. All signs points towards him seeing plenty of snaps on Thursday — on both defense and special teams.

LB Cassh Maluia: With Raekwon McMillan being sent to injured reserve, the Patriots brought back second-year man Cassh Maluia. He could see the field late on Thursday, but he likely has no real shot at making the roster.

LB Cameron McGrone: McGrone remains on the non-football injury list and he will not play against Washington.

LB Raekwon McMillan: McMillan looked good early in training camp, but unfortunately suffered a torn ACL last week. He has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the entire 2021 season.

DB Jalen Mills: With Stephon Gilmore still on the physically unable to perform list, Mills served as the top outside cornerback opposite J.C. Jackson in practice. As such, he will likely see the field early versus Washington but will likely not play deep into the contest.

WR Tre Nixon: The seventh-round wide receiver remains buried on the depth chart, but his speed was on display time and again during practice. He needs to take advantage of it against the Football Team in order to position himself well in the race for a backup wide receiver spot.

K Quinn Nordin: With Nick Folk having missed five straight practices, Nordin projects as the top place kicker heading into Thursday. The undrafted rookie will try to build on what was a strong practice performance as of late: with Folk out, he made all 14 of his field goal attempts.

LB Ronnie Perkins: The Patriots will likely take their time when it comes to Perkins’ development, but the third-round rookie should still see some steady snaps on Thursday night. He has had his moments in training camp and projects as a rotational pass rusher from the edge.

OL R.J. Prince: A member of the Patriots’ backup offensive line, Prince will see his fair share of action in the preseason opener. Whether or not he improves his standing on the depth chart can be questioned, however.

OL Alex Redmond: Redmond is in the same basic situation as R.J. Prince. He will take the field once the starters are done, but his roster outlook remains unfavorable until he proves otherwise.

WR Devin Ross: Having missed two practices earlier in camp due to a hamstring issue, Ross will need to stand out in preseason to make the team or practice squad. He likely will only get a chance against second- or third-stringers, though.

OL William Sherman: The Patriots have moved Sherman between tackle and right guard this offseason, and his versatility could help him sneak onto the roster. He is behind other options at both spots, however, meaning that he will need a strong preseason to convince the team to keep him around.

TE Jonnu Smith: Another member of the Patriots’ prominent free agency class, Smith has been outstanding this summer. A natural receiver and powerful blocker, he has “TE1” written all over him. As far as Thursday’s game is concerned, however, he will likely only see limited snaps due to his projected starter status.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson: With Damien Harris and Sony Michel likely seeing only limited action in preseason, Stevenson should receive plenty of opportunities. The fourth-round rookie is a relatively safe bet to make the team, but he will likely want to show the coaches that he is deserving of a role in the regular season as well.

LB Kyle Van Noy: Even though he spent the 2020 season in Miami, Van Noy is one of the most experienced members of the Patriots’ defense. As such and with his roster spot secure, he will not see a lot of snaps on Thursday.

TE David Wells: The Patriots will be without Hunter Henry and Dalton Keene on Thursday, but that does not mean David Wells will see any considerable action. He remains a camp body at tight end at this point in time.

The Patriots’ game against Washington will be kicked off on 7:30 pm on Thursday. Please click here for information about how to watch it.