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Patriots gear up for new season

By Kevin Costa

Section: Sports

August 25, 2017

This past Saturday, the New England Patriots faced the Houston Texans in week two of preseason. The outcome was 27-23, in favor of Houston. The final score of  these exhibition games, however, have little weight on predicting the Patriots’ season since most teams won’t hit full stride until the regular reasons starts.

To get in rhythm for September, most of the starters for New England participated in the game for a couple of series. Tom Brady started the first two drives and capped off his appearance with a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Rex Burkhead, according to ESPN. Brady finished his 16-snap allotment completing 6-9 for 67 yards. Surprisingly, Rob Gronkowski made an appearance, though small. Usually, Belichick rests the injury-prone tight-end during the preseason to keep him healthy for when the games really count. Gronkowski was limited to 15 snaps and did not receive a catch. He did exit the game injury-free, a plus considering the tight-end missed the latter part of last season to undergo spine surgery. According to Patriots.com, Gronkowski commented on his first preseason appearance since 2012: “It felt good to be out there, get my feet wet…We expect to play every game no matter when it is, even if it is preseason.”

The limited starting time for first stringers is typical for a second preseason game. In this exhibition game, the stage gave way to the players vying for a spot on the 53-man roster. CBS Sports reports Belichick is looking to finalize his roster by Sept. 2, with the most pressing concern being the defensive end position. According to USA Today, the position lacks depth after Rob Ninkovich’s retirement last month and rookie Derek River’s season-ending injury last Wednesday. Rivers, New England’s top pick in the draft, selected in the third round, tore his ACL in a joint practice with the Houston Texans. Geneo Grissom could supply the missing piece to the roster. A third-year end who was bumped up to active roster midway through last year, Grissom is as versatile a player as one can get. Belichick gave praise to Grissom, mentioning his experience at linebacker, on special teams and his work ethic, fanragsports.com reports. It is likely Grissom will secure a place on the final roster.

On Friday, the Patriots will play their third preseason game against the Lions at Ford Field. However, the focus will likely be on preparing the starters for a regular-season matchup. According to ESPN, Coach Belichick tends to play his first stringers well into the third quarter to build their stamina. Tom Brady expressed the importance of these types of games to NESN.com: “The rhythm of practice is very different, and the only way to simulate the game is to play.” For the experienced quarterback, this upcoming game will allow him to fine-tune his timing with newly-acquired weapons, most notably wide receiver Brandin Cooks and running back Rex Burkhead, says NESN.com.

For Belichick, these last two weeks before the Sept. 7 season-opener against Kansas City are the busiest time of the year. According to Musketfire.com, the long-time head coach is performing a juggling act, preparing for the Detroit game and managing his final roster while keeping an eye on the Chiefs and their roster cuts. And expectations are high for the defending champions to live up to their success last season.

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