by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Preseason games should be fun to watch, because we get to check out our favorite team with no real concern for the result. That said, last Thursday’s 36-35 loss to the Rams was about as enjoyable as sliding down a saguaro cactus.

We’ll move on to this week, the Battle of the Backups, with hopes for at least a pleasant diversion before watching games that count. As the venerable Mike Reiss has said, this tilt at the Giants home field allows New England to scout the brand-spanking New Meadowlands Stadium That Is Still In A Swamp, or whatever it’s called. Hey, every little bit against the Jets would help.

So, no big concerns for Thursday’s game by itself, but lots to watch heading into 2010…

Neither Bodden Nor The Patriots Were Smiling Tuesday

Secondary A Primary Thought: Tuesday night’s cuts saw erstwhile starter Leigh Bodden get placed on season-ending injured reserve. We hoped that rookie Devin McCourty and second-year player Darius Butler could step up at cornerback. Now, trial by fire becomes trial by inferno.

Mega Hurts: We got the lousy news on Bodden, but what’s up with Ron Brace? Or Jermaine Cunningham, Julian Edelman, or Aaron Hernandez? (Note Tuesday’s PFW injury report here.) These and several other players won’t play on Thursday – and that’s fine by us – but what is their status for Game One?

Better Take A Tom Out: Actually, we only assume that Tom Brady will sit out this game. And by “assume,” we mean “hope like hell.” You know as well as anyone, Coach Bill Belichick, that it only takes a few seconds to get hurt. Give backups Brian Hoyer and Zac Robinson some field time. All of it, even.

Searching High And LoMo: Okay, so far no starts from running back Laurence Maroney. Does that seem strange to anyone else? Did we have to see veteran Sammy Morris in action to know that he can run the ball (he’s only been in the league since Noah felt a raindrop)? Is Maroney ready to play? Is he mentally there? A strong night vs. New York backups might help ease some fears.

Having Trouble With Our Lines: Games get won in the trenches, so we’re wondering about this offensive line’s ability to grind out first downs. While Brady had a solid game with the starters, the O-line looks about as deep as a bottlecap, and the holdout of Logan Mankins ain’t helping. On the other side of the ball, can the Patriots stop the run and pressure opposing quarterbacks (I’m looking at you, Derrick Burgess)? And can they do it without smacking someone in the head for a 15-yard penalty? Seriously, last week’s game featured more slaps than a telenovela.

Who Gives A Darnell? About 22 players out of 75, that’s who. Thursday’s the night that the bottom of the roster gets figured out, when guys like receiver Darnell Jenkins, linebacker Thomas Williams and running back Thomas Clayton either make the final 53 or get cut. The coaches have some tough decisions to make, especially considering the aforementioned injuries and the age of the backfield. Look for those names and some new ones to pop up on the eight-man practice squad after the league-wide slashing.

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