Braxton Berrios Among Patriots’ Players to Watch in Preseason Opener vs Lions

Derek Rivers

Getty Derek Rivers (right) is competing for a roster spot in his third year with the Patriots.

With preseason football about to be underway, it’s crunch time for a select group of New England Patriots players competing for a roster spot.

Competition is stiff at several positions for the Patriots. On the offensive side of the ball, spots at wide receiver and tight end are up for grabs. Defensive line and defensive back are also key positions with viable roster spots.

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The Patriots brought in one of the more loaded rookie classes in recent memory and those first-year players could unseat a few veterans ahead of them.

While some positions, like defensive back, are strong, others, like tight end, leave a lot of questions to be answered. There will be some interesting position battles to keep an eye on Thursday night, here’s what to watch.

Wide Receiver

Jakobi Meyers has emerged as a potential starter this preseason after going undrafted in April. His work with Tom Brady and the first-team offense has been impressive and he looks like another amazing discovery by New England.

Other receivers competing for that final spot include Braxton Berrios and Dontrelle Inman.

Berrios was a leading receiver at the University of Miami in 2017, but an injury derailed his rookie season last year. Now, Berrios is just looking to make the roster and will likely get increased reps with Julian Edelman unlikely to play much, if any.

Inman, meanwhile, is a veteran who has been working with the reserves for the majority of preseason. With no Josh Gordon or Demaryius Thomas return looking remotely close, Inman must find a way to separate himself starting with the first preseason game on Thursday.

Tight End

With Ben Watson out for the first four weeks, a fourth tight-end spot may be open for competition. Lance Kendricks is dealing with an injury keeping him out of the fold. His experience may give him an edge, but not enough to win him the job.

His competitors: Ryan Izzo and Andrew Beck. Neither have played a down in the NFL, but their run-blocking and route-running abilities will need to be on full display against Detroit.

Stephen Anderson is another tight end whose spot is relatively safe though not guaranteed. He’ll need to show he is a gamer as he saw limited action with New England last season.

Defensive Back

The Patriots secondary has looked strong already in preseason with several veterans and a few budding stars. But the real competition is for reserve and special teams’ spots.

Terrence Brooks had a couple rough practices against Detroit and will need to improve his coverage on Thursday night. He has tons of special teams experience and has been productive in that role, but New England is looking for multifaceted productivity.

Other guys on the chopping block include Duke Dawson, who was injured last year as a rookie and never quite got into a rhythm. He was thought to be an immediate contributor coming out of college too, but was unable to impress enough for playing time.

Keion Crossen, Obi Melifonwu, and Joejuan Williams will also be seeing quality reps on defense as they look to earn one of the sought-after roster spots.

Defensive Line

The Patriots are looking to sure up their pass rush and a few players are currently on the bubble.

Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun are engaged in a major battle for what could be the final defensive end spot on the team. Rivers has two years in the Patriots organization but has struggled to make waves. Meanwhile, Calhoun spent parts of three seasons with the Raiders and is looking to rekindle the success he had in college – 27 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in four years at Michigan State.

Chase Winovich will see his first game action as a rookie. He has had a decent training camp but is still looking to make that big impact.

Another person to look at is John Simon who had a strong first year in New England. If he is to play, Simon will have to be at his top-level though he is looking pretty safe for a roster spot.

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