Patriots pick Ohio State special teams ace Nate Ebner

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Patriots pick Ohio State special teams ace Nate Ebner

FOXBORO - There are times when Bill Belichick will stand up and talk about a player's production, his experience, how many games he's played, his football intelligence.

And then there are times when he drafts people like Nate Ebner, a decorated rugby player. What the ruck?

He's 6-2, 205 and was one of the best special teams players in the Big 10 in 2011 even though he just started.

He had a terrific pro day in Columbus running a 4.48 40-yard dash. He'll be lowered into the cauldron of competition on the Patriots special teams groups.

First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

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First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

The Patriots had their share of good and bad in the first half of their preseason game with the Panthers on Friday. Here's who we saw as some of the team's top performers, as well as some of the players who may have to make some corrections in the second half. 

* Tom Brady was only 3-for-9 in his four series, but he completed his passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown pass to Chris Hogan might have been the best throw of the preseason for any Patriots quarterback as he hit Hogan in stride, over the shoulder, for a 33-yard gain. Brady was close to having a second touchdown pass, but it glanced off the out-stretched hands tight end Martellus Bennett in the back of the end zone. Brady was nearly picked on his final drive, again trying to hit Bennett. He was sacked on his final play of the half.

* Jimmy Garoppolo had a difficult time early in this one. He was 5-for-9 for 37 yards, and he picked up an intentional grounding penalty. Garoppolo also was strip-sacked by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, but James White recovered. 

* Chris Long had a standout half with two pressures, a pass-breakup that led to a Devin McCourty pick, and he drew a hold. The veteran defensive end has shown a good motor and a knack for getting to the quarterback in each of New England's first three preseason games. 

* Logan Ryan also had a strong first half in his preseason debut. His first five targets in coverage resulted in no completions, an offensive pass interference penalty and an interception. His former college teammate Duron Harmon also had a pick of Panthers backup Derek Anderson.

* Nate Solder allowed the pressure that eventually led to the sack of Brady by Kony Ealy. He also was flagged for a false start. Being that it's the third preseason game -- when starters typically go deep into the game -- he'll likely have a chance to redeem himself in the second half. 

Mingo, Branch among the Patriots sitting out of preseason game No. 3

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Mingo, Branch among the Patriots sitting out of preseason game No. 3

Barkevious Mingo has made his way to Charlotte to join the Patriots, but he will not take the field with his new club about 24 hours after being traded by the Browns. 

The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder that the Patriots acquired for a fifth-round pick on Thursday went through a workout long before Friday night's preseason game, but he was not in uniform with his teammates leading up to kickoff. 

Along with Mingo, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Jonathan Cooper, Shaq Mason, Malcolm Mitchell, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Shea McClellin and Alan Branch were not on the field for warmups. All four players who are still on the physically unable to perform list -- Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola, Tre' Jackson and Dion Lewis -- were also missing. 

Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots and re-joined the team after serving a team-imposted week-long suspension, but it appears as though he will not take the field Friday night. 

Ninkovich (triceps), Mitchell (elbow), Cooper (foot), Mason (hand, reportedly), Sheard (knee) and McClellin (undisclosed) have been dealing with injuries and were not expected to play. Grugier-Hill is a bit of a surprise absence given that he practiced for the Patriots this week. 

Keep an eye on running back DJ Foster and receiver Keshawn Martin, both of whom will see preseason game action for the first time this summer and could make late runs at roster spots. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman may also see some game action for the first time this preseason as he was on the field with the team and in uniform before the game. Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner and undrafted rookie tight end Bryce Williams may see their first game action as well. 

As Tom E. Curran reported, Tom Brady will play, though Jimmy Garoppolo will start. Brady and the team's other quarterbacks took the field together for warmups in the lead-up to kickoff.