As the New England Patriots conclude their second week of the preseason on Saturday, position battles are becoming extremely important as far as playing time goes.
The third preseason game is often used as a dress rehearsal for starters and is where most roster decisions are made. But who plays with the first team is usually decided by the end of the second game.
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With so many injuries on the offensive side of the ball, this week is a good time to make a strong impression as possible roster spots continue to open up, especially at receiver. As for defense, the Patriots are deep at every position, so a few plays have some work to do to rise above in their quest to make the roster.
Who are the four Patriots players with the most to prove this week?
Inman hasn’t gotten much consideration for the first-team offense but did look good in the second half last week against Detroit. He finished that game with two catches for 23 yards.
This week, with injuries to N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, and Phillip Dorsett all materializing, Inman has gotten more consistent reps. In joint practices, he made a couple of nice catches, including beating Malcolm Butler in a 1-on-1 near the goal-line.
Inman could see a lot of time this week toward the beginning of the game, a good sign for a guy who has been a hard-worker through training camp. And with Josh Gordon now reinstated, he’ll really have to earn his place.
The defensive end made the move up to first-team defense this week in practice and proved why once the Patriots got to Tennessee.
During joint practices, Calhoun nearly came up with a couple of sacks going against Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Besides his ability to get to the quarterbacks, he adds a little depth to the Patriots linebacker corps.
With similar quickness to a guy like Jamie Collins off the edge, Calhoun can set the edge to contain mobile quarterbacks. In the past, New England has struggled against quarterbacks that can roll out and run well and apparently that looks to change this season.
Returning to practice this week and coming out of his red non-contact jersey, Kendricks faces a massive opportunity this week. The veteran tight end is healthy and competing for a roster spot at the thin tight end position.
New England’s tight ends have been banged up already, including Kendricks. With Matt LaCosse and Stephen Anderson set to miss out on Saturday’s game, the door is open for Kendricks to show he belongs.
The pressure is on more than ever after New England traded for Eric Saubert who is also expected to vie for a roster spot at tight end.
It has been a disappointing preseason for the second-year corner. After a lackluster showing against Detroit, Dawson is up against a tall task trying to make one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL.
He hasn’t done much to separate himself either, but that can change against a dynamic offense in Tennessee. Dawson does have a fair amount of talent – he was a second-round draft choice after all. But that talent has yet to be put on full display.
He’ll need to be near perfect this week against Tennessee in order to make an impression. And if the joint practices were any indication, he very well could do so. Dawson was undefeated in 1-on-1 drills on Thursday and garnered praise from Bill Belichick who said he is “way ahead” of where he was a year ago.