Patriots-Giants: What to look for

Patriots-Giants: What to look for
September 1, 2011, 4:56 am
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Last Saturday in Detroit, the Patriots put up an end-to-end stinker. Thursday night, they have a chance to get that taste of ineffectiveness out of their collective mouth in the team's final preseason game against the Giants. Some things to watch for as New England hosts a Giants team that played just three nights ago against the Jets. END ALL BE ALLThe Patriots have rotated their defensive ends and edge rushers to get a look at the personnel there. Andre Carter appears to have locked down a roster spot. That leaves Mark Anderson and Eric Moore trying to make a play for the other rush-end spot. Both may certainly make it, but Anderson wasn't too solid last week against Detroit. He may need a substantial night to make the team. Jermaine Cunningham, a second-round pick in 2010, is in this mix as well. He hasn't shown much in limited preseason action. SPIKES HIGHLinebacker Brandon Spikes missed the final four games of the 2010 regular season after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancer. He's missed the past two preseason games as well. Given he projects as a starter at one of the linebacker spots, it's vital for him to show he's on point and in shape in this game. RIGHT GUARD ISSUESDan Connolly has missed practice this week with a leg injury suffered against Detroit. After he went down, backup Rich Ohrnberger struggled to hold off Ndamukong Suh. If Connolly, who was limping badly as he left the locker room last Saturday, is going to be down for an extended period, Ohrnberger has to perform much better in front of Tom Brady. START 'EM UP?The Patriots starters played most of the first quarter in last year's preseason finale. With the opener against Miami 11 days away and last week's ineffectiveness still fresh, there's a very good chance Bill Belichick will wheel the starters out on both sides of the ball Thursday night against New York. GOING OUTSIDE?The Patriots' outside receivers - Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate - have seen few balls this preseason. Branch, in fact, hasn't caught any. The Patriots intended to work the ball to the outside last week but the Lions pass rush ruined that plan. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots again try to go outside again this week. SAFETY CHANCEIt appears Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung will be your starting safeties. But what about the rest of the rotation now that James Sanders has been released. At first glance, James Ihedigbo playing back there made you realize how solid he must be as a special teamer. Josh Barrett is a player who hasn't really established his role. Sergio Brown has been solid enough to make the release of Sanders possible. We'll see if it's a three-man rotation back there with Chung, Meriweather and Brown or if the Patriots go a little deeper. LEARNING FROM WHO DOESN'T DRESSSometimes, the guys who don't play are the safest ones. The coaching staff doesn't need to see any more from them. That's why we'll be looking at the sidelines and substitutions to see who's on ice for the night. RETURN GAMESCan Julian Edelman supplant Brandon Tate as the top kickoff return guy? Edelman needs more touches. Tate hasn't done much with his chances. Being the primary kickoff and punt return guy - which Edelman may be headed toward - is a significant workload. We'll see what special teams coach Scott O'Brien does for indications of which way he might be leaning.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.