Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe reports that quarterback Tom Brady will play tonight in the Patriots preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. Bedard notes that Brady was in for 17 plays in 2010 for New England's preseason opener against the Saints but was held out of last year's first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which led some to question the amount of action Brady would see this year. Still, Bedard points out that last year's opener was "after the lockout" and that the Patriots "weren't really settled, especially along the offensive line."
James Walker of ESPNBoston.com writes that running back Stevan Ridley will begin this season with an extra emphasis on ball security. Walker writes that when asked about the biggest lesson he learned from his rookie season, Ridley replied, "The ball can't be on the ground… That's no secret. Fumbles will have you on the bench." Walker notes that Ridley has been "running well" in the last two weeks and is "outshining his training camp roommate, Shane Vereen." Ridley is expected to start against the Saints on Thursday night, which will be his first game action since he fumbled in a postseason win over the Denver Broncos last season.
Zuri Berry of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots signed rookie offensive lineman Kyle Hill on Wednesday. The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Hill was a four-year starter at Duke and started all 46 games for the Blue Devils since 2008. Hill's signing officially brings the team's training camp roster to 90 players. "The Patriots now have 17 offensive linemen on the roster, a number of which have been unable to practice, including guard Logan Mankins, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and tackle Markus Zusevics," writes Berry. "Patriots guard Brian Waters, who continues to be absent from camp, does not count toward the team's 90-man roster."
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com observes that the Patriots looked sharper in Wednesday morning's joint practice with the New Orleans Saints in preparation for Thursday's preseason opener. "The Patriots' offense looked much sharper on Wednesday, with quarterback Tom Brady completing all nine of his pass attempts in 7-on-7 drills inside the red zone." Reiss adds that there was a heavy emphasis on special teams, and that the session had a "'game preparation' feel to it.'" He also notes that defensive lineman Gerard Warren and offensive lineman Dustin Waldron joined the list of Patriots players not present at practice.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald sees defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower as among the key players to watch in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Saints. Howe notes that the two first-round draft picks have been practicing with the starters for more than a week in training camp."Jones has speed and explodes off the edge, and he might be a valuable pass rusher," writes Howe. "Hightower has done a lot — crashing the line, dropping into coverage and lining up over the tight end — so it will be good to see where he stands out most."