The New England Patriots closed out the preseason on a sweltering Friday night in Nashville, losing 23-7 to the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium.

Now, cutdown day looms. The Patriots must trim their roster from 89 players to 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Here are nine at-the-whistle takeaways from New England’s final preseason tuneup:

1. Another night off for the ones
The Patriots opted to play their starters in just one of their three exhibition games. Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, Matthew Judon and the rest of New England’s regulars watched Friday night’s contest from the sideline, just as they did in the preseason opener against Houston.

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Head coach Bill Belichick hinted at this plan Wednesday when he gave Jones’ first-team offense a heavy workload in the final preseason practice.

Here were New England’s starting lineups against Tennessee:

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DL: Christian Barmore, Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts
OLB: Josh Uche
LB: Mack Wilson, Calvin Munson
CB: Shaun Wade, Jack Jones
S: Marte Mapu, Joshuah Bledsoe, Brad Hawkins

QB: Bailey Zappe
RB: Kevin Harris
WR: Kayshon Boutte, Raleigh Webb
TE: Matt Sokol, Johnny Lumpkin
OL: LT Andrew Stueber, LG Chasen Hines, C Jake Andrews, RG Riley Reiff, RT Sidy Sow

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2. Not in uniform
A total of 17 Patriots players did not dress Friday night:

CB Isaiah Bolden
WR Tyquan Thornton
WR/RB Ty Montgomery
ST Matthew Slater
ST Cody Davis
CB Jonathan Jones
LB Chris Board
DE Trey Flowers
OL Kody Russey
OL Atonio Mafi
OL Cole Strange
OL Mike Onwenu
OL Conor McDermott
OT Calvin Anderson
WR Demario Douglas
TE Hunter Henry
TE Mike Gesicki

Of those players, only Board and Mafi were not either absent or limited in practice this week.

There are some important names on that list. Most notably, the Patriots’ offensive line is hurting, though starters Strange and Onwenu both could be close to returning.

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Both of New England’s top tight ends also are ailing — not ideal for a team that wants to major in two-tight end sets — and veteran cornerback Jonathan Jones hasn’t practiced since Aug. 3. Douglas, the star of training camp is dealing with a reported shoulder injury that limited him this week.

The Patriots have two weeks to get as many of those key pieces healthy as possible ahead of their Sept. 10 season opener against the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

3. Another O-lineman goes down
Reiff was the only established offensive lineman to see action for New England in this game, and his night ended painfully when Sow fell on his right leg during a second-quarter running play. Reiff was evaluated in the sideline medical tent, then exited toward the locker room.

It’s unclear what the Patriots’ plans were for the 34-year-old. He opened camp as the top option at right tackle but recently had been filling in for Onwenu at right guard. Regardless, they could ill afford another O-line injury.

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New England has 16 linemen on its roster, and seven of them now are hurt. The Patriots might need to add some reinforcements here, through trades or waiver claims, before they face Philadelphia, which averaged more than four sacks per game in 2022.

4. Marte Mapu debuts
We finally got our first real look at the Patriots’ fascinating third-round draft pick. Mapu, who practiced in a red non-contact jersey until last week as he recovered from a torn pec, started at safety and also saw snaps as a sub linebacker and in the slot.

How did he do? On first watch, this seemed like a “shake the rust off” kind of night for the Sacramento State product. He had at least two missed tackles on plays that went for 22 and 23 yards. But his versatility, athleticism and physicality all were evident in his first taste of NFL game action. Mapu will be an exciting player to watch this season.

5. Reserve defenders finish strong
Three front-seven defenders on the roster bubble helped their causes Friday night.

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Linebacker Calvin Munson had eight tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception in the first half alone.

Munson also is a quality special teamer and has been with the Patriots off and on since 2018. He looked like a dark-horse roster candidate even before this performance.

Another standout: edge rusher Ronnie Perkins, who finished with nine tackles, a TFL and a quarterback hit, including one tackle he made moments after puking on the field (yes, puking). The 2021 third-round pick suffered what looked like a possible head injury early in the fourth quarter, however — a tough break for a player who’s battled injuries throughout his career.

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Defensive tackle Sam Roberts showcased his disruptive pass-rushing ability with a sack, two TFLs, three QB hits and seven total tackles.

Did those three do enough to make the 53? We’ll find out Tuesday.

6. QB rotations
Zappe played the first quarter-and-a-half. That wasn’t a surprise. Then, he gave way to third-stringer Trace McSorley. Again, pretty standard.

But when the Patriots’ offense returned to the field after halftime, Zappe was back behind center. He played the first four snaps of the third quarter, then gave way to multi-positional rookie Malik Cunningham. But only for two snaps. Then, it was back to Zappe, who remained in the game until New England’s final drive. The Patriots gave that to Cunningham, who went four-and-out.

From a viewing perspective, it was disappointing not to see a more substantial QB opportunity for Cunningham, who was electric in the preseason opener. The undrafted rookie got an extended look at wideout for the second straight week and struggled again, finishing with one catch for -1 yard on four targets. The former Louisville quarterback caught just one of his nine targets this preseason.

This was a rough night for Zappe, too. He went 8-for-15 for 57 yards and fumbled three times, losing one, while playing behind a patchwork O-line and throwing to practice squad receivers. Many viewed Zappe as a legitimate challenger to Mac Jones entering the offseason, but he leaves it as the clear, unquestioned No. 2.

The Patriots’ offense mustered just 79 total yards on 42 plays against Tennessee.

7. Jack Jones stays busy
Jones played nearly every first-half snap in all three exhibition games — a rarity for a possible starter. His preseason workload raised the question of whether the Patriots are anticipating a possible suspension for the second-year cornerback. Jones is facing multiple gun-related charges stemming from his June arrest at Logan Airport and is due back in court on Sept. 15.

This game wasn’t Jones’ best. He had a couple of nice, aggressive plays in run defense early on but was flagged for defensive pass interference on third down, allowed a 30-yard completion and took a vicious stiff-arm to the face.

Uche, Barmore, Ekuale and Wilson all started the game but played just a handful of snaps.

8. Boutte off the bubble?
Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte made just a cameo in this game, playing the Patriots’ first offensive series before watching the rest of the game from the sideline. That bodes well for the sixth-round rookie’s odds of cracking the 53-man roster.

Boutte had a 42-yard touchdown in the second preseason game and played well in practice this week, catching all nine of his targets while Thornton and Douglas nursed injuries. The once-vaunted LSU product looks like a player on the rise — and one is making the team.

9. Good news for Gonzalez
Patriots fans got a scare Wednesday when Christian Gonzalez hopped off the practice field with an apparent ankle/foot injury. Losing the first-round draft pick would have been a major blow to a secondary that already had been without Jonathan Jones since early in training camp.

Turns out, those fears were unfounded. Gonzalez did not play Friday night, but he was in uniform and looked like he was moving well in warmups. Crisis averted, seemingly.

Gonzalez projects as a Week 1 starter, and he’ll immediately be tested. The Eagles boast one of the NFL’s top receiver duos in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Featured image via Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via USA TODAY Sports Images