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Now that we have survived the Great Solar Eclipse of 2017, it is time to focus on the upcoming third preseason game for the New England Patriots against the Detroit Lions.  The third game is commonly viewed as the most important of the preseason games.  Starters usually go deep into the third quarter to build stamina before throttling it back in game four to rest for the season opener.  For bubble players, this game is a last chance to make a strong impression against quality competition.  Here are a few players to watch for the Pats.

Cyrus Jones:
            Last year’s top draft pick, taken in the second round out of Alabama, had a dismal rookie season.  Touted for his value as a return man in the kicking game, he struggled fielding punts and lost the punt returner job before the bye week.  He ended the season as a healthy scratch for the Super Bowl run.  This season, Jones got off to another rough start, getting burned on two deep passes in the first preseason game against the Jaguars.  But he bounced back with a solid performance Saturday in Houston as a punt and kick-off returner.  Jones can afford no more miscues in the remaining two games if he hopes to make the 2017 roster.

Kony Ealy:
            Ealy was acquired from the Carolina Panthers for a second round pick in the 2016 draft to bolster the Patriots depth along the defensive line.  Ealy has reportedly been unspectacular in Training Camp and had an undisclosed issue with Bill Belichick which briefly kept him on the sideline.  But like Jones, Ealy played a strong game against the Texans.  Consistent performance from Ealy is needed with the Patriots thin on the defensive line due to injuries and the retirement of Rob Ninkovich.

Jacoby Brissett:
            Jimmy Garoppolo received significant playing time at quarterback against Houston after Brady started and played the first two offensive series.  Brissett came in for mop-up duty late in the game and was only five for ten passing and a lost fumble on a sack.  With Brady expected to get the bulk of the snaps in game three, it will be interesting to see if Garappolo or Brissett will get the remainder of the playing time under center.  Brissett’s last chance to keep his roster spot may hinge on his performance in the final preseason game against the Giants’ second and third string.

Stephen Gostkowski:
            Though not a bubble player or a player in danger of losing his roster spot, it’s been no secret that Gostkowski has had issues with extra points and field goals since the 2016 AFC Championship Game in Denver.  Gostkowski was flawless on all kicks attempted against the Texans, drilling three field goals from 28, 51 and 42 yards and notching two extra points in the indoor confines of NRG Stadium.  He will look to continue that momentum on Friday against the Lions.

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