Just 15 days after the Patriots opened training camp at Gillette Stadium the team will have their first chance to measure the work they have done in a competitive atmosphere tomorrow night in the preseason opener at home against the New York Giants. From a fans perspective the opener will finally give a glimpse into what the team might offer in 2003, and for the players on the field, especially those fighting for a roster spot, the matchup is the first of four chances this preseason to prove their worth.
And while the more solidified, veteran players know they may see as little as a quarter of game action, those players also must take full advantage of the work in order to properly prepare for the regular season that is just a month away. The Giants are a solid, veteran playoff team that does a variety of things on both sides of the ball that make them a good litmus test for the Patriots at this early point in the preseason.
"We could play a good amount if it is not good, quality time," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We have to have quality reps when we are in there, play hard for when we are in there and then when [the coaches] pull us out [they] pull us out."
"They've got some veteran players who have been around for a while and have experience," Willie McGinest, who has missed most of training and likely will not play, said of Thursday's opponent. "They have a lot of playmakers. They've been successful in the past and collectively, offensively and defensively, at every position they are talented. It's probably one of the most talented Giants teams they have had in a long time."
But while the game marks a good chance for the players to bang heads with new faces and take some aggression out on guys other than their own teammates, the game also has the potential to be even blander than the average preseason game. The fact that the two teams will play again on Oct. 12 in the regular season could limit how much they tip their schematic hands. But that doesn't mean the atmosphere on the field at Gillette won't be competitive.
"You might see a lot of vanilla out there on both sides fo the ball," Bruschi said. "They might be vanilla on offense and we might be a little bit vanilla in our defense. But when the bullets start flying we might call something that's a little bit exotic out there, you never know because we have done that before.
"We know we play them in six weeks, so we not only just want to go out there and say, 'Hey it's a preseason game lets get good work and then let's get out of there.' We want to say, 'Hey we play these guys in six weeks, let's play them hard, let's get our reads, let's remember what has happened to us and let's remember what they were doing as a team to us and put it in the memory bank."
Notes and Numbers
The Patriots are 5-1 at home in the preseason under Head Coach Bill Belichick, having won the last five in a row. … The Patriots have finished 3-1 in the preseason in each of the last two preseasons. … New England has opened the preseason against the Giants nine times, including in 2002 when the Giants defeated the Patriots 22-19 at Giants Stadium. … Former cornerback Ben Kelly signed with the Denver Broncos. … According to the AP, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan has broken his little toe and his status for Thursday's preseason opener is uncertain. … Belichick said earlier this week that rookie cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson would start the game, while the players who have missed recent practice action, including Joe Andruzzi and Willie McGinest, would not play. … The Patriots have an 83-111-1 all-time record in the preseason. … The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on WCVB Channel 5. The broadcast team of Mike Patrick, Paul Maguire, Joe Theismann and Suzy Kolber will work the game for ESPN.