Preseason Game 2: Eagles.
With several starters sitting, and the all-important Game 3 just four days away in Tampa, a big opportunity was laid out for rookie Brandon Bolden.
Stevan Ridley went into the preseason as the guy to beat for the No. 1 running back spot. Shane Vereen, back from the injury that plagued him last season, showed well against New Orleans.
Bolden's spot on the roster is less secure. But with some special teams work there could be one to win, according to Bill Belichick.
On a Tuesday evening conference call, New England's bench boss said Bolden and the other backs will have to fight it out.
"I can't control how the players play -- that's up to them. What we can do is coach them, and teach them to the best of our ability, and prepare them for when they do play. In practice, getting them repetitions and making sure they understand their assignments But the players have to go out and perform.
"I can't tell you how that competition's going to work out, whether it's going to be a couple guys, or a few guys bunched up close together, or if somebody's going to separate from the group or not."
Bolden getting several reps against Philadelphia is part of the process.
"We tried to play those guys last night and, in a lot of cases, just left them in the game, so they played on first, second, and third down. In a lot of cases, it wasn't a third down substitution. We did it more by groups that had practiced together rather than by down to try to help ourselves evaluate those players on all three downs and not necessarily pigeon-hole them into one situation."
The undrafted rookie finished with seven rushes for 14 yards. The number would have been higher if he hadn't run backwards on a red zone draw for a loss of seven.
In the second quarter, Bolden muffed a punt. Philadelphia recovered both the ball and the game's momentum, taking the ball from New England's 24 into the end zone on three plays.
Bolden failed to recognize a fair catch situation on his next punt return try and got bulldozed.
It wasn't all bad. But those plays mentioned can't be ignored when evaluating personnel. To Bolden's credit, Belichick noticed more of the positive.
"I think Brandon competed well and he definitely showed up with some positive plays in the kicking game and also offensively. We'll take a look at different people doing different things, trying to see what kind of depth and versatility we have with some players before we decide for sure to lock in to one particular spot or we use that person's versatility in a couple different spots. I think that's what we need based on the make-up of our roster.
"There are a lot of things that he can learn from and will probably execute better next time," Belichick concluded. "Overall, I think, a positive performance. But not perfect."
Bolden has to hope, in the end, it's good enough.
Preseason Game 2: Eagles.