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Patriots Who Don't Play Quarterback That We'll Be Keeping A Close Eye On During Preseason Opener

BOSTON (CBS) -- Preseason football is here, and for most people, it will offer the first glimpse of the 2021 New England Patriots. We've seen plenty of highlights from training camp so far, but now it's time to see how these guys do in some real game action.

We'll obviously be watching Cam Newton and Mac Jones do their thing when the Patriots kick off their three-game preseason slate against the Washington Football Team on Thursday night. Some may even break out the abacus to keep track of who gets the most snaps with the first unit. We already have a good idea what Newton offers, though he should (emphasis on should) be much better with a full season and an actual training camp under his belt. We don't yet know how Mac Jones will fare against an NFL defense, and on Thursday, he'll go against one of the best in the league in Washington.

It's the most important position on the field, so we'll obviously be locked in on what Cam and Mac have to offer Thursday night. But there are players to watch everywhere else on the roster too, with the depth chart still a work in progress and jobs to be won or lost.

Here's a long list of gentlemen who don't play quarterback that we'll be watching on Thursday night:

Jonnu Smith: If he does anything Thursday night, Smith will already surpass New England's tight end production from last season. Chances are the Patriots will keep it pretty vanilla with one of their prized free agent signings on Thursday night, but Smith will be worth watching whenever he's on the field.

Kendrick Bourne: Another offseason addition, the wideout has developed a good working relationship with Mac Jones on the field. Now we'll see if that continues in game action.

N'Keal Harry: He's been impressive in drills, but now he needs to show it against opposing defenses.

Rhamondre Stevenson: The rookie running back is getting rave reviews from camp. Now we'll get to see what the power back can do in game action.

James Ferentz: With David Andrews sidelined, Ferentz will be getting plenty of looks at center.

Christian Barmore: He's missed time recently with a foot/toe injury, so it's unclear if the second-round pick will even play Thursday night. But if he does, the rookie defensive tackle will be hard to miss.

Matt Judon: He got a $56 million deal in the offseason, and the pass rusher made it clear earlier this week that he isn't about to take any snaps off for his new team -- even in the preseason. Let's see how he looks in New England's revamped front seven.

Josh Uche: Speaking of the pass rush, Uche is primed to make a big Year 2 jump for the Patriots. Thursday night will be his first opportunity to actually hit a quarterback this summer.

Ja'Whaun Bentley: The linebacker needs to bounce back this season after a rough 2020 in his expanded role. He should benefit from having veterans like Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy back in the mix. Plus, it'll be cool to see a linebacker wearing the No. 8 jersey.

Jalen Mills: He's the No. 2 corner at the moment. We'll get our first look at how the versatile defensive back handles those duties on Thursday night.

Michael Jackson: With cornerback up in the air, Jackson will get plenty of run for the Patriots this preseason.

Kyle Dugger: We're going to see some hits on Thursday night, and Kyle Dugger can deliver some hits.

Quinn Nordin: Nick Folk has been strong to very strong for the Patriots the last two seasons, but the team is going to give the undrafted rookie out of Michigan an extended look this preseason. He had an up and down career with the Wolverines, but has been pretty solid in camp -- especially when he's kicked inside Gillette Stadium.

Brian Khoury: Long snapper hasn't been a question mark for the Patriots for a while thanks to the steady snaps of Joe Cardona. But he's nursing an injury at the moment, forcing the Patriots to bring in Khoury -- a former DIII linebacker and XFL snapper -- this week. It's certainly not at the top of the list, but Khoury's snaps will be something to watch.

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