Patriots-Panthers Notes: Terrance Knighton’s Roster Spot In Question After DNP

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The New England Patriots already have cut ties with four veterans this preseason. After the events of Friday night, it would not be surprising if Terrance Knighton soon became the fifth.

Knighton, a 30-year-old defensive tackle, didn’t play a single snap in the Patriots’ third game of the preseason — an ominous sign for a player who already had been pushed toward the fringes of the 53-man roster.

Instead, head coach Bill Belchick filled his interior D-line the likes of Malcom Brown, Markus Kuhn, Anthony Johnson, Woodrow Hamilton and surprise starter Vincent Valentine during New England’s 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers.

“We played the younger guys (Friday night),” Belichick told reporters after the game. “We didn’t get as much of a look at him as some other players. He played a little more last week. I think there’s good competition at that position, and we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

Knighton, who is entering his eighth pro season, struggled last week against the Chicago Bears, while Johnson, an afterthought entering training camp, enjoyed a breakout game. He said after Friday’s game he is healthy and was prepared to play.

“It’s disappointing just because, you know, I’ve played a lot of ball in this league, seen a lot of things,” Knighton told reporters, via MassLive.com. “I’m not going to make too much of it. It is what it is. Whatever happens, happens. If I’m here, I’m here. If I’m not, I’m not. I’m just taking it a day at a time. …

“I’ve still got a lot of ball left in me, so it is what it is.”

The Patriots must trim their roster from 90 players to 75 by Aug. 30.

Some additional notes from Friday night’s action:

— Along with Valentine, the Patriots also started another rookie on defense: sixth-round pick Elandon Roberts, who started at linebacker alongside Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins and finished with two tackles.

— Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who sat out the first two preseason games, made a rare relief appearance, playing four series in the second quarter after Jimmy Garoppolo started under center.

The last time Brady played in a game he did not start? That would be game No. 4 of the 2014 preseason, when the veteran QB made a cameo as an extra-point holder against the New York Giants.

Before that? Sept. 23, 2001.

Asked why he chose to use Brady off the bench, Belichick simply told reporters he “thought that was the best way to play him.”

— Stephen Gostkowski struggled through an uncharacteristically inconsistent night. The typically automatic Patriots kicker missed two field goals, including a 30-yarder.

— Rookie guard Joe Thuney has been one of the brightest stars of the summer for the Patriots, but even he was no match for three-time All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly on this fourth-and-1 run by LeGarrette Blount.

Ouch.

— Nate Ebner also saw his first action of the preseason after missing New England’s first two games to participate in the Rio Olympics. The special-teams ace made the tackle on the game’s opening kickoff.

— Rookie linebacker/special teamer Kamu Grugier-Hill made the trip to Charlotte but didn’t play. He was scratched “due to unexpected illness,” a source told ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss before the game.

Grugier-Hill tallied six tackles and one pass breakup over New England’s first two preseason games.

— Newly acquired linebacker/defensive end Barkevious Mingo also didn’t suit up against the Panthers, though he did go though some pregame conditioning work with head strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera.

Mingo, who was traded to the Patriots from the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, will wear No. 51 — the number former Patriots captain Jerod Mayo wore from 2008 until his retirement earlier this year.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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