Two preseason games have been played since the last edition, so let’s look at five New England Patriots who are on the rise- not on the fall, we don’t need any pessimism- as we head into the Patriots fourth preseason game against the New York Giants.
1. Ron Brace
Throughout the offseason, there was pressure on the former second-round draft pick to improve and put his physical talent and strength to good use. Ron Brace delivered early on in training camp before being injured, and he picked up where he left off in camp after the injury by using his strength and leverage to great use.
After a big game against the Philadelphia Eagles in which Brace nearly sacked Nick Foles, the pressure for Brace to play well rose after the Patriots were forced to release Jonathan Fanene due to health issues. With Brace set to take on the primary backup role behind Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, he needed to show his stuff against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
Like he did against the Eagles, Brace delivered by consistently pressuring the quarterback and making life difficult for the Buccaneers interior. He has been a revelation as an interior pass rusher and is looking to shed the “bust” label by being a key pass rusher as the team’s third option at DT. Brace was once on the roster bubble and behind Brandon Deaderick on the depth chart this offseason, but he is clearly better than the struggling Deaderick.
2. Marquice Cole
I feel like an idiot for leaving Marquice Cole off of my 53-man roster projection in favor of Justin Francis. While the defensive end has shown little as a pass rusher in the past two preseason games, Cole had a big game against the Bucs on Friday by recording six tackles and getting his hands on two passes (he should have picked them off).
Cole may not have had as good of a day as the stats indicate- he was targeted often- but he still performed well and made a positive impact on special teams. He is a versatile defensive back who has built his case for a roster spot if the Patriots decide to keep six corners. I think they should do so, but I still have him off of my roster if they decide to pick five CBs; Alfonzo Dennard deserves that fifth spot more.
3. Donald Thomas
Left guard Donald Thomas put forth a solid display against the Bucs and has shown that he can be a solid depth option at guard. He’s a fringe-roster player at this point, but he did help his cause by pulling well and paving the road for the running game. Thomas is still on the outside looking in, but he’s close after that game.
Continue Reading for thoughts on another offensive lineman and a young skill position player.