Watch CBS News

What To Watch For In Patriots' Preseason Finale Vs. Giants

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- For some perspective on what the fourth and final preseason game can mean, allow me to regale you with a quick story.

For this tale, we must travel back in time, way back to August of 2017. The date was Aug. 31. The quarterback for the Patriots was a young man named Jacoby Brissett. He threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns that night, while also rushing for 29 yards and another score. The Patriots' leading rusher was LeShun Daniels, and their top receivers were Devin Lucien, D.J. Foster, Austin Carr, James O'Shaughnessy, K.J. Maye, Jacob Hollister and the aforementioned Daniels. Glenn Gronkowski, Cody Hollister and Tony Washington also each caught one pass. Defensively, D.J. Killings, Kenny Moore, and William Likely each broke up a pass. Damarius Travis led the team in tackles, and Darius Kilgo and Geneo Grissom each had a sack.

Those players put forth a rather impressive performance, albeit in a devastating 40-38 loss. (Curse you, New York Giants!!!)

Shortly thereafter, Brissett was traded to the Colts. Glenn Gronkowski was cut from the team. So was Maye. And Foster, Daniels, Killings, Moore, Travis, Hollister, Grissom, Lucien, Washington, Kilgo, Carr, O'Shaughnessy and Likely.

Quite literally, everyone who played a big role in the preseason finale failed to make the final roster.

So when it comes to this game on Thursday night, we probably can't glean too much from what takes place on the field, considering most of the involved parties will be unemployed come Saturday night. (Man, the NFL is a tough place to find work.) Still, there's plenty to watch for.

Damien Harris

Damien Harris
Damien Harris (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

One player who will likely play and also make the squad this year will be rookie running back Damien Harris. The third-round pick out of Alabama left last week's game with an unknown injury, leaving him with just 20 touches thus far in the preseason. He's made the most of those touches -- rushing for 88 yards on 16 carries (5.5-yard average) and gaining 23 yards on four receptions -- but the Patriots probably want to see the rookie get a little bit more game action before the regular season begins.

In what is certainly a crowded backfield, Harris can make his final case to be active and involved once the regular season begins. With a postiive showing, perhaps he could make a veteran like Rex Burkhead become expendable.

Play Callers

Steve Belichick, Bill Belichick
Steve Belichick, Bill Belichick (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After losing their defensive play callers in two consecutive seasons, the Patriots had to lean on two less-experienced coaches in Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick this summer on the defensive side of the ball. (Steve Belichick is entering his eighth season coaching, but has taken on the entire secondary in addition to just the safeties. Mayo is in his first season coaching.) Though Bill Belichick and the aforementioned assistants have been tight-lipped about who exactly is sending in the play calls, it has appeared from the outside to have been a joint effort by both Mayo and Steve Belichick.

Now, typically in the fourth preseason game, Belichick hands the reins over to the highest-ranked non-coordinators. In the past, that's meant Brian Flores or Matt Patricia on defense calling plays, with the likes of Chad O'Shea calling the offensive plays. With all of those assistants gone, we'll learn a lot about the hierarchy of the Patriots' coaching staff, which has undergone tremendous turnover since February.

Gunner Vs. Berrios

Gunner Olszewski
Gunner Olszewski (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Everyone loves the Gunner, who looked like he was shot out of a cannon on a couple of punt returns last week vs. Carolina. As such, Gunner Olszewski has crept his way into the picture as a potential candidate to make the 53-man roster. That would be quite the achivement for an undrafted defensive back-turned-receiver/returner out of Division II Bemidji State. (Go Beavers!)

One player potentially standing in his way would be 2018 sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios. His experience at a program like Miami makes him more of a prototype for the slot receiver/punt returner role that might be available, but that's not going to just be given to him. He'll have to earn it. And after an impressive preseason debut vs. Detroit, he's done little to show that he deserves a roster spot.

Granted, it's possible that neither Olszewski or Berrios makes the final 53. But it's nevertheless possible that a job could be on the line Thursday.


Jarrett Stidham, Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick
Jarrett Stidham, Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Been a good summer for the kid, don't you think? Jarrett Stidham completed 43 of 62 passes (69.4 percent) for 506 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. He's looked the part as an NFL quarterback so much that he's got chuckleheads in the media bidding adieu to Brian Hoyer. (Though that fumble last week was ugly.)

While his roster spot is secure as a fourth-round pick, his continued development will still be worth tracking throughout this game. It may be the last we see of him in game action for quite some time.


The rookie's punts are just breathtaking. (He's also got to work on those holds for Stephen Gostkowski.)


Yes, health. The old standby. Last week's game caused far too much damage for the Patriots, as more than a half-dozen Patriots suffered various levels of injury throughout the game. The team could really use a healthy week out there.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

The Patriots conclude their 2019 preseason this week, and WBZ-TV has you covered. It begins Thursday night at 7 p.m., with Patriots Game Day, followed by kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Stay tuned after the game for Patriots Fifth Quarter, for live reaction and postgame press conferences from the Patriots' preseason finale.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.