FOXBORO -- If you're looking ahead to Thursday's game between the Patriots and Giants to try to determine which players will or won't make Bill Belichick's initial 53-man roster . . . good luck.
As evasive as the Patriots coach can be in press conference settings at times, how he handles playing time in the preseason finale can be just as unenlightening. If you take a look at how he doled out snaps in his team's final exhibition game in 2018, you'll find surefire answers are hard to come by.
For instance, if you thought players who sat on the bench in the fourth preseason game had their roster spots solidified, think again. Running backs Brandon Bolden, and Mike Gillislee, receiver Riley McCarron and punter Corey Bojorquez didn't play at all against the Giants last year at this time. All were cut soon thereafter.
If you thought players who started and played a significant amount in the preseason finale were on the chopping block, think again. Ted Karras started the game on the offensive line, played a whopping 59 snaps and made the team. Linebacker Nicholas Grigsby played more than anyone in the finale -- 76 snaps -- and made the team. Keionta Davis, Adam Butler, Geneo Grissom, Derek Rivers, Keion Crossen, JC Jackson and Jason McCourty (at safety) all started at MetLife in the Giants game and made the 53-man roster.
The reality is that the Patriots have to field a team Thursday night. They'll have to have competent players at certain positions. Either Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer will be taking the snaps at quarterback. Someone is going to have to protect them. Someone is going to have to try to get open and catch passes. (Braxton Berrios is expected to be eligible for the game. We'll see if he plays after being unavailable last week.)
Not everyone can sit defensively, either. There are certain positions that look deep where the back-end of the depth chart players could see action and yet still make the club; Crossen and Duke Dawson, for example, could see time at corner though they have cases for the active roster. Because of injuries, the outside linebacker position isn't as well-stocked as it was earlier this summer and perhaps Chase Winovich -- who will certainly make the team -- has to see significant time in order for the defense to run smoothly.
However, the playing time shakes out Thursday night, just be careful in making any assumptions as to which back-end of the roster players are safe and which ones aren't based on the snap counts you see after the fact.
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