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What to watch for in preseason, Thursday
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (7:30 ET/4:30 PT)
What to look for - Saints
- With the loss of RB Lynell Hamilton (knee) for the season, his short-yardage role is currently up for grabs between undrafted free agents RBs P.J. Hill and Chris Ivory. How each of them performs against New England could go a long way in determining whether the team signs a veteran to compete for the role. Hill was highly regarded in scouting circles, but was not drafted last year because of character issues.
- The No. 3 quarterback role is up for grabs between Chase Daniel and seventh-rounder Sean Canfield. Daniel probably has a chip on his shoulder from not being drafted last year. There are some within the organization that believe Daniel could eventually develop into the backup for Drew Brees.
- There is probably no bigger opening for jobs than at defensive tackle for this team. Fourth-rounder Al Woods has a realistic chance to be in the rotation early on if he can get off to a good start.
What to look for - Patriots
- Depth on the offensive line is a big problem, with starting LG Logan Mankins unsigned and with G/T Nick Kaczur injured. Keep an eye on second-year G Rich Ohrnberger, who will get extended snaps in this game.
- The Patriots had no depth at the receiver position last year, now they have seven players who can legitimately contribute to the offense. The competition for the job opposite Randy Moss will heat up in this game between Brandon Tate and Taylor Price.
- For the first time in many years, the cornerback position looks to be deep for this team. But how the roles will be set for this season remains up in the air. This game could be very meaningful for Devin McCourty, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. Wheatley and Wilhite have yet to establish themselves in the rotation.
Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens (9 ET/6 PT)
What to look for - Panthers
- With third-year RB Jonathan Stewart still on the Reserve/PUP list, the coaches will get pretty good look at backups Mike Goodson, Tyrell Sutton, Dantrell Savage and Josh Vaughan. With starting RB DeAngelo Williams on the final year of his contract, one of these backups could eventually be on the rotation down the road.
- There probably will be no more scrutinized position for this football team than at wide receiver opposite Steve Smith. Rookie Brandon LaFell, who has put together a strong training camp, will now have a chance to show what he’s learned against real competition. Can fourth-year pro Dwayne Jarrett beat him out and save his job?
- Second-year DE Everette Brown will have a lot of attention paid to him this season. He’s expected to handle a situational pass rushing role or more, but this is a player that the Panthers traded up for in the 2009 NFL Draft. He will get a chance to shine in this game.
What to look for - Ravens
- While he probably won’t play very long, starting QB Joe Flacco and his new receivers and tight ends have to develop timing together. That will start this evening.
- The biggest issue for this football team is in the secondary. Can third-year S Tom Zbikowski adequately fill in for starting FS Ed Reed? Can veteran S Ken Hamlin push him? The cornerback position is in shambles, but can the team get a positive contribution from journeyman CB Travis Fisher?
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (9 ET/6 PT)
What to look for - Raiders
- This game will be the showcase of Oakland’s young receivers. And how well they can get their timing down with new starting QB Jason Campbell will go a long way to determining the success of the passing game this season.
- The top running back job remains up in the air between Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. This game, unfortunately won’t mean much for McFadden since he’ll be sidelined by a hamstring injury. But for Bush, if he has a strong performance, the power back could take a significant lead on the job.
- It will be interesting to see how the coaches use recently acquired OLB Kamerion Wimbley. And Quentin Groves, who will back him up, will get a chance to rush the passer in this game.
What to look for - Cowboys
- While Marion Barber seems entrenched as the starter, Felix Jones could be a few big plays away from closing in. It’s believed he’ll get more work in this game than last game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Second-year OLB Victor Butler flashed during the Cincinnati game. Can he repeat his success against Oakland? The third OLB role for Dallas is important for depth, so Butler needs to take advantage of every opportunity he gets.
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