New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JULY 28, 2021: Mac Jones #50 of the New England Patriots throws a pass during training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

The Patriots’ Thursday night preseason opener against Washington may be one of, if not the most anticipated August game in franchise history. Not only is it the first preseason game in two years, and the first Patriots game of any kind in front of fans in almost 600 days, but there’s plenty of football intrigue as well.

This will be the Patriots’ introduction to the NFL’s new preseason format, which features three games instead of four. How many starters and backups would play in each game became relatively predictable in the four-game format, but Bill Belichick hasn’t been open about what kind of adjustments he’ll make with one fewer game.

Then of course, there’s the players themselves. It’s the first time fans will see Mac Jones – the first first-round quarterback drafted by the team since 1993 – in live reps. Other players will be looking to build on strong starts to camp, while others who had higher expectations coming into the summer will do their best to make up for lost ground.

Who has the best chance to make an impact on Thursday night? Here’s a look at some of the more fascinating players and positional groups to keep an eye on against Washington.

MORE: Patriots roster projection 1.0

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at