3 things to look for in Patriots’ preseason matchup with Raiders

The New England Patriots will play the Las Vegas Raiders in their final matchup of the 2022-2023 NFL preseason this Friday, August 26 at 8:15 p.m. EST.

With it being their last preseason game, the Patriots are likely to play many of their backup and reserve players for a large portion of the game, as it will be the last time they will see the field before the August 30 deadline to reduce the roster from 80 players to just 53.

After a week long of joint practices with the Raiders (and not many particularly positive headlines), it will be interesting to see how New England approaches their final meaningless matchup before the regular season begins. Here are 3 things to look for in the Patriots’ preseason matchup in Las Vegas.

1. Shuffling along the offensive line

New England’s offensive line has been a significant point of interest coming into training camp after the team lost multiple veterans in guard Shaq Mason and guard/center Ted Karras during the offseason. While the team used their first-round pick to select guard Cole Strange with the hopes of filling their void at offensive guard, questions remain as to who will make up their offensive line depth.

While many sources have said that veteran James Ferentz has been having a nice training camp and could be a solid candidate to fit into a utility offensive line role, his 33-year-old age could be a cause of concern with potential injury.

Moreover, there is a lack of proven offensive line depth (particularly at the tackle positions) once the first-team offense comes out of the game. Justin Herron, Andrew Stueber, and Arlington Hambright seem like they could be candidates to fill in at tackle if absolutely necessary, but none of those candidates currently inspire much confidence.

With all these questions regarding the depth of the offensive line, expect the Patriots to be moving around their reserve offensive linemen throughout the game to see what candidates they have to fill those reserve roles.

2. Extended playing time for Tre Nixon

Nixon is in a bit of an odd spot with the Patriots. The second-year wideout out of the University of Central Florida is purely a depth piece for the team at this point in his development. However, with injuries to Tyquan Thornton and Kristian Wilkerson, Nixon could be in line to potentially make the Week 1 53-man roster as a reserve receiving option.

This predicament could heavily factor into how much he plays in Friday night’s game. While Nixon hasn’t shown much to make him free of the danger of getting released, his experience in New England’s system could set him apart from the other depth receivers on the roster.

In Friday’s game, he could be featured, alongside fellow receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Josh Hammond, for an extended amount of playing time as the team decides which options they want to keep on the roster. While Humphrey seems to have a leg up in this race thus far, Nixon’s knowledge of the Patriots’ system could give him the advantage and earn him a spot on New England’s 53-man roster.

3. Another candidate for the returner position

With it being the last preseason game, the Patriots are looking for any sort of trait that will make a player stand out and give them a reason to be on the 53-man roster. While in the first two preseason games New England used Myles Bryant and J.J. Taylor in the return roles, expect to see some other fast and quick players also utilized in those spots as well.

The Patriots have been known in the past to keep players on the team as the dedicated returner, even if they don’t have any other impact on the offense or defense (young Julian Edelman, Gunner Olszewski, etc.). Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Tre Nixon could both be great candidates for this position, as they are are both in the mix to be depth receiving options on the team.

Bryant seems to be one of New England’s top options at the slot cornerback position, and Taylor could end up factoring into the offensive passing game. This leaves the door open for another player to seize the full-time returner role for themselves, using the final preseason game as a reason for why they should take over the position and make the roster.

Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire