FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ preseason finale is finally upon us.

And while most of the roster seems set for the Patriots heading into the 7 p.m. game Thursday at the New Yok Giants, there’s still a small window for players to make one last impression before Saturday’s roster cut to 53 men.

This week the Patriots chipped their roster to 75 after starting with 90 players this offseason. Veterans Terrance Knighton, Nate Washington and Donald Brown have been released, and more veterans may be gone before the regular-season opener.

For all the bubble players, this fourth and final exhibition game is a chance to try and earn a roster spot, either with the Patriots, or put together enough good plays to find a job somewhere else.

Here are five things to watch:


For the Patriots, the biggest theme in every preseason game this summer has been the quarterbacks. Will Tom Brady play? Will Jimmy Garoppolo start?

This final exhibition game is probably more important for Jacoby Brissett than anyone else. This is usually a time where the Patriots give their third-stringer a chance for more game reps. Last year, Ryan Lindley started and played the whole game. Two years ago, Tim Tebow took more of the snaps.

Although it would be a bit surprising to see Brady or Garoppolo play, there’s still a chance. Brady wants to play before his suspension kicks in Saturday. You could also argue that Garoppolo still needs the experience before the season opens Sept. 11 at Arizona.


D.J. Foster flashed potential last week in Carolina. Tyler Gaffney continues to have some solid runs. Are either considered roster locks? At this point the two young running backs are not, but one last strong push could change that Thursday.

Gaffney has shown more than Foster at this point since he’s played in every exhibition game. Foster needs this performance more than most players since he missed the first two games. They are likely competing for one roster spot.

The Patriots likely will try to keep one or both on the practice squad, depending on how the rest of the roster shakes out.


Coach Bill Belichick has talked about the depth here all summer and that showed when the Patriots released Knighton on Monday. But some tough roster cuts remain.

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Vincent Valentine are probably safe. That leaves Markus Kuhn and Anthony Johnson probably fighting for one final spot. It will be interesting to watch Thursday how each player performs and how long they play.

Last week Johnson was used on nearly every third-down play as an interior pass rusher. But Kuhn has received a lot of first-team reps.


The battle for a fifth receiver began this summer with a bang but has been disappointing of late. Neither Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter or Keshawn Martin have really separated themselves.

Sports Illustrated reported that the Patriots are shopping Dobson, meaning he could be on the way out. Thursday could be a make-or-break game for these four. For a position that was lauded by Belichick early this summer, it’s been quiet over the first three exhibition games.

With Danny Amendola’s status in the air, the team could use someone to add to the receiving corps of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell.


When the Patriots traded for Barkevious Mingo last week, it was thought that the former Cleveland Brown would compete for playing time as an edge rusher. When he met with the media this week, he said he’s a linebacker.

If Mingo plays in his first exhibition game Thursday, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots use him. Although he’s working with the linebackers, there’s a possibility he’ll be used to rush the passer in a similar way the Patriots used Akeem Ayers in 2014.

It makes sense to play him against the Giants to give him some experience in the Patriots’ defense before the regular season begins. It could be a preview of things to come.

NOTES: The Patriots signed Matthew Slater to a one-year extension, according to multiple reports. The deal is reportedly worth $1.8 million.

The 30-year-old captain and special teams ace was scheduled to become a free agent next offseason.

Slater has long been one of the Patriots’ team leaders and is a great asset to not only have on the field but in that locker room. Slater has been a captain every season since 2011. He’s also been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011 (five times) and a three-time first-team All-Pro.

Slater, who is listed as a wide receiver, is one of the best gunners in the NFL and one day could be headed to the Patriots Hall of Fame.

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