This year, it's even more competitive with NFL rosters having expanded to 90 players, up from the customary 80, so, opportunities to shine were even fewer for many young and inexperienced players.
More than a third of the roster - 33 players in all - either did not suit up at all or did not appear in the game, including most of the starters on offense and defense.
The following is an overview of the key areas of competition in all three phases of Thursday's Jaguars-Patriots contest:
Among those players serving as spectators throughout the evening was quarterback
Protecting them at left tackle was rookie first-round draft choice
"It was fun. I'm enjoying myself," Solder said at his locker afterward. "It's kind of a process. This is just one step in a long journey."
Solder's line mates were left guard
In fact, the signal-calling duo had nearly identical numbers: Hoyer went 15-for-21 with 171 yards (a long of 43 and a touchdown), while Mallett was 12-of-19 for 164 yards (long of 50 and a score).
Ridley also led a mostly backup group of pass catchers with seven on the night, though second-year man
Having lined up in traditional 4-3 sets throughout training camp, the Patriots backup defense came out for the first couple of plays of the game in their more usual 3-4 scheme. However, after that, they switched seamlessly to the 4-3 even without team substituting. The personnel grouping that started the game stayed virtually the same, save on obvious passing downs, when starting right cornerback
As he has done throughout camp these first two weeks, Fletcher looked impressive, often shooting gaps into the backfield and making five total tackles, two of which were for losses. He admitted afterward, though, that being the leader of the defensive 11 was challenging.
"It took a few plays. First drive was a little shaky, just getting used to kind of having the control out there for the first game. It was a little tough at first, but once I got the hang of it, I felt like our whole defense played pretty well."
As with quarterbacks, the d-line had virtually the same base unit of
An offseason change in the NFL rule book helped backup kicker
Koepplin handled all the Patriots kickoffs against Jacksonville, but incumbent Stephen Gostkowksi was called on to kick every extra point and field goal. Gostkowski would have been perfect, but on one point-after attempt, holder
Coming off season-ending surgery last November, Gostkowski looked in mid-season form, drilling field goals from 46 and 43 yards.
Price was uninspiring as a punt returner (two for 14 yards and one fair catch), while rookie