FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After a slow start to training camp, Trevor Bates has made a strong push to earn a spot as a linebacker on the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster.

The Westbrook native and former UMaine standout will have a final opportunity to make his case when the Patriots close out the preseason at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.

Bates has totaled eight tackles in three preseason games – plus another tackle on special teams, where he has played on all four units. He has showcased his skills stepping up against the run, dropping into coverage and rushing the passer as an end.

“He’s played some on the line, some off the line, runs well,” said Coach Bill Belichick. “Again, a tough kid, has shown some (flexibility) – we’ll we play him off the line of scrimmage basically – but he’s shown that versatility. He plays in the kicking game.

“These are the kind of games that are important for a player like him to have the opportunity to play in, evaluate him against other good competition.”

Bates is likely battling with veteran Jonathan Freeny and newcomer Marquis Flowers – acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals – for one of the final spots at linebacker. He has taken advantage this summer of increased opportunities because of injury (Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts), absence (Dont’a Hightower) and ineffectiveness (Freeny).

The 6-foot-2, 247-pound Bates starred at the University of Maine as a defensive lineman, intercepting three passes and breaking up another seven passes as a junior and posting 13 sacks in 22 games over his final two seasons.

That led the Indianapolis Colts to draft him in the seventh round in 2016. The Colts converted Bates to linebacker, and he appeared in one game for them, although only on special teams, before being released. The conversion to a new position has continued in New England with Bates learning all three linebacker spots.

“It’s been good,” Bates said of playing linebacker. “Obviously I’m willing to play wherever they want me, whether it’s Sam, Mike or Will. So I go in and learn as much as I can for each position. I prepare like I’m going to play each one, and when I’m called be ready to go.”

Bates is dealing with more congestion and decisions at linebacker as opposed to defensive end. But he believes he’s adjusting nicely when it comes to shedding blocks and reading his keys.

“I think it’s been a good fit for me, playing over the ball, especially inside,” he said. “The reads have been good, and obviously the run fits, I make corrections when I have to. And as long as I learn from that and make the right corrections I think I’m headed in a good direction. It feels natural, and I’m just trying to play fast and make plays.”

Although Bates had limited experience playing special teams in college, he was involved in all four phases in Indianapolis. That’s continued with the Patriots, and he understands the value of being able to contribute in two of the game’s three phases.

“Obviously, the more you can do the better,” Bates said.

WHILE JOE THUNEY thrived and Cyrus Jones faltered as rookies last season, Vincent Valentine fell neatly in between with a solid campaign.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackles appeared in 13 regular-season games and played 27.5 percent of the defensive snaps, a total that ranked second on the team among all rookies. He went on to appear in all three playoff games.

Despite missing some time earlier this month, Valentine likes where he’s at with the season.

“I think I’m a little more comfortable than I was last year,” Valentine said. “Obviously the experience has made the game slow down for me a little bit. But I just have to get better every day, that’s the goal.

“So I’ve just been working hard, working with the guys and learning from them. We’re all teaching each other different things.”