The fourth and final preseason game usually isn’t an easy watch, but it’s an important week for many players battling to keep their NFL dreams alive.
We’ll be watching players one level above that bottom of the roster Thursday night, however.
If a player doesn’t get in the game, it’s usually an indication he’s a roster lock. That’s not to say it’s a death knell for any player who does get on the field Thursday night. A player’s status is just more certain if they don’t play.
Here’s who we’re keeping an eye on and why:
QB BRIAN HOYER
Last week, it was a weird sign that Hoyer didn’t play in the Patriots’ third preseason game. This week, it might be a bad sign if he does play.
We can’t get a good read on the Patriots’ backup quarterback situation. The Patriots can either cut Hoyer and keep rookie Jarrett Stidham as Tom Brady’s lone backup or keep both Hoyer and Stidham. The Patriots have a loaded roster and could use the extra roster flexibility by opening another spot. Hoyer offers more assurance behind Brady, however.
WRs JOSH GORDON AND DEMARYIUS THOMAS
We could see both players’ preseason debuts Thursday night. Gordon just came off of the non-football injury list after being conditionally reinstated by the NFL. It would probably help Gordon to knock some rust off by participating in preseason competition since he hasn’t played in a game since mid-December.
Thomas tore an Achilles in late December and recently was activated off of the physically unable to perform list.
TE RYAN IZZO
If Izzo doesn’t play Thursday, that means he’s making the Patriots initial 53-man roster. He’s had a good summer as a blocker, and he’s shown flashes as a pass-catcher.
Andrews’ illness could open up multiple spots for backup offensive linemen. We’ll be watching Tyler Gauthier, Dan Skipper, James Ferentz and Cole Croston closely.
DT DAVID PARRY
Parry’s chances of making the team increased when the Patriots cut Mike Pennel this week. Parry is a journeyman nose tackle with practice squad eligibility. We’d imagine he’ll stick around the team one way or another, but with a strong final preseason game, he could find his way onto the active roster.
LBs ELANDON ROBERTS AND CALVIN MUNSON
We’re just not sure how many off-the-line linebackers the Patriots should keep. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley are locks or near-locks. Would the Patriots keep Roberts and Munson if they’ll also roster multiple outside linebackers? These two could still be battling for one spot.
CBs DUKE DAWSON AND KEION CROSSEN
Dawson and Crossen also seem to be locked in a roster battle buried behind talented cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams. We think only one will make the team. Crossen has had the better summer, and he was above Dawson on last year’s depth chart when both players were rookies.
S DURON HARMON
We think Harmon is and should be safe especially given recent happenings with and uncertainty around Patrick Chung. But if Harmon takes the field Thursday night, it would raise eyebrows.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images