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The Patriots play their final exhibition game tonight at 6:45 PM against the Jacksonville Jaguars here at Gillette Stadium. Do not expect to see much from the starting units, as the ultimate goal of tonight's game will be to avoid injury. What the game will be used for is an evaluation of some of the backup players, particularly those on the bubble, according to Adam Kilgore of The Boston Globe. "By Sunday, teams have to be down to 53 players. So tonight, as the Patriots play a team they beat, 27-13, last season, players teetering on the edge of playing for the defending Super Bowl champions and unemployment are fighting to make their last impression a good one," writes Kilgore.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call reports "[Coach Bill] Belichick is still in the process of building depth on the roster and whoever can contribute on special teams and either offense or defense has a shot at making the final cut. Evaluations have been going on since mid-June, but Belichick said it's possible that a player could play his way on or off the based on his performance Thursday night."
Keeping in line with the conservatism that will define tonight's showdown, wide receiver Troy Brown will not be playing. "Brown, 33, injured his left knee while returning a first-quarter punt against the Panthers Saturday night in Carolina and did not return," writes Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant. "Although he wore only a black support stocking on his leg in the dressing room Tuesday and seemed to walk without a limp, running and cutting at NFL speed is a different matter."
In The MetroWest Daily News, Mike Reiss highlights another issue on the Patriots table, the salary cap. Reiss reports that the Patriots have finalized Corey Dillon's deal in such a way that it will give them added cap flexibility for this season. "The deal comes one week before an important date on the NFL calendar," writes Reiss. "By 4 p.m. ET on Sept. 8, teams must account for all players receiving compensation under their 2004 contracts -- from the active roster, to injured reserve, to the practice squad -- under the league's $80.5 million salary cap."
The most intriguing player in relation to salary cap issues is certainly cornerback Ty Law. "Parting ways with Law would solve the Pats' cap issues in one shot. If Law were released, his cap charge in 2004 would be $2.7 million (a savings of $7.5 million)," writes Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald. "The Pats were in the exact same position last year, when they decided to cut [Lawyer] Milloy rather than release two or three key veterans. What will they do this time around? Stay tuned."
Also in the Herald, Michael Felger discusses the positive preseason outlook surrounding Deion Branch. "The third-year wideout has emerged as the top receiver on the Pats and should once again be the No. 1 target for Tom Brady in the regular season. In fact, many feel Branch is on the verge of a breakout year," writes Felger.
In The Providence Journal, Tom Curran says to prepare for a "snoozefest" tonight. Despite the opportunity for some shuteye, Curran does point out there are some players to watch, including rookies Marquise Hill and Ben Watson.
Finally, on SportsIllustrated.com, you can get a sneak peak at Dr. Z's NFL Preview. Always the prognosticator, the Doctor places the Patriots atop his power rankings, and foresees a ten-point victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XXXIX.