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New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

At the end of the day, Thursday’s preseason game between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers won’t count in the real standings. But there’s still a particular level of importance to the third preseason game of the season, the “dress rehearsal” contest. Specifically, the performance of the starters and their preparedness for the regular season.

After an uncommonly light training camp, the Patriots have begun their transition to preparing for games as if they mattered in the standings. And while it ultimately doesn’t mean a thing whether they win or lose on Friday in Charlotte, they at least need to look like a team that’s ready to go for real.

Safety Duron Harmon, one of many players who are likely to play a large percentage of Friday’s game, knows the team is taking the game as seriously as they would if it were in the regular season. He also explained the team’s current approach to game prep, and their goal of being ready for the weekly routines of real games when they arrive.

“This is an important game,” Harmon said. “They’re going to be ready to go, because this is like a big rehearsal. You’ve got to use these games, truly, as a time to get prepared to familiarize yourself with what you’re going to do in the season.

“You don’t want your first week of preparation and studying film to be the first week [of the regular season]. You want to be able to do it now. You want to take your preparation for the entire week and start doing it now, so that when you get in the flow of things for game one of the regular season, you’ll have a good routine. You’ll have something that you can follow and work with.”

Dec 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA:  New England Patriots strong safety Duron Harmon celebrates leaving the field after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Patriots won 27-24. (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Dec 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA: New England Patriots strong safety Duron Harmon celebrates leaving the field after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Patriots won 27-24. (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots’ starters didn’t look ready for real game action in the first half of their preseason win over the Washington Redskins. But with Brady making his debut in preseason game No. 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the offense looked vastly improved. The defense also had a better showing, particularly the pass rush.

It’s now on them to build upon last Thursday’s win, this time entering with an opponent-specific gameplan for the Panthers. It remains to be seen how much Harmon’s comments on the Patriots’ preparation come to fruition against Cam Newton and Carolina, and whether the team’s approach will translate to early success in the regular season.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.