Super Bowl rematches are typically overhyped to the point of exhaustion. The New England Patriots’ second preseason game, Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, is no exception. But the hype from this game is completely one-sided.

Eagles tackle Lane Johnson won’t stop talking about the Patriots. Earlier in the offseason, he called New England a “fear-based organization.” This week he said he hopes fans in Foxborough “raise hell.” On top of that, Eagles fans banded together to buy a billboard near Gillette Stadium. The electronic billboard depicts a strange scene that includes a dog in a weird hat, Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass and the words “Go Birds” and “World Champs!”

Meanwhile, inside Gillette Stadium, Coach Bill Belichick and his players were focused on the present and barely mentioned the Eagles this week.

We learned quite a bit about the Patriots in their preseason opener. Thursday is another chance – Super Bowl rematch or not – to see where this year’s team stands. Here are five things to watch.


After sitting out last week’s game, Tom Brady is expected to make his preseason debut. This will be the first game action for the 41-year-old quarterback. This offseason, Brady has had some up and downs. It hasn’t helped that his offensive weapons have been injured, new and inconsistent.

Thursday is a chance for Brady to build some chemistry with players like Eric Decker, Jacob Hollister, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, etc.

It would be a confidence boost if the starting offense could put together a couple of scoring drives against the Eagles. Typically, Brady only plays in two preseason games, so time is running out before Week 1.


The Patriots are hurting at running back. Currently, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel have been missing from practice. On Tuesday, Jeremy Hill was limited and didn’t participate in full-team drills. That left the Patriots using Mike Gillislee, James White, Ralph Webb and Brandon Bolden.

The injuries have led to more opportunities for three players, who could be fighting for one roster spot. Thursday will offer a big opportunity for Gillislee, Webb and Bolden.

Fans are enamored with Webb, but remember, the Patriots’ coaching staff was enamored with Gillislee to start last season. Gillislee had a rough start to the preseason, but injuries have paved way for a heavy workload on Thursday.


The Patriots are set at four starting positions with Trent Brown (left tackle), Joe Thuney (left guard), David Andrews (center) and Shaq Mason (right guard).

That leaves right tackle remaining. It should be Marcus Cannon’s spot, but an injury has kept him out. That means the Patriots are starting with LaAdrian Waddle, but all of a sudden, first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is rotating in with the starters.

After not playing last week, it remains to be seen how Wynn looks in live action. This is a good opportunity for the rookie to try to get in that starting lineup.


We know Stephon Gilmore is the Patriots’ best cornerback. We’re unsure of how the depth chart shakes up after that. Eric Rowe is battling with Jason McCourty for the second spot. McCourty didn’t play last week, but received more reps with the starting defense leading up to this game.

In the slot, Jonathan Jones has started to come along after his rehab.

He could have the inside track. Jomal Wiltz started last week in that spot. Rookies JC Jackson and Keion Crossen had some moments vs. Washington. Jackson, an undrafted rookie, had a strong week of practice and is an undrafted rookie that could land on the 53-man roster.


Will someone please help Brady? Or Brian Hoyer?

Last week, Devin Lucien was the Patriots’ best receiver. Chris Hogan struggled. Phillip Dorsett was a nonfactor. Julian Edelman was catchless. With Brady starting, it would be nice to see a better overall performance from this group.

While Hogan and Dorsett will make the team, it’s not clear how the depth chart fills out after that, and before Edelman returns from his four-game suspension. This is a good opportunity for this group to open some eyes. It would also be encouraging to see someone stand out and dominate.

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