Jaguars vs. Patriots: 10 Jacksonville players to watch in the preseason opener

Jaguars vs. Patriots: Beat writer Mike Kaye discusses the five things to watch

The Jaguars will take on the New England Patriots Thursday night to kick off the team's four-game preseason slate.

While the first game typically features little action for the starting groups, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has said the playing time will be based on individual situations.

With that mindset, the Jaguars may mix up their first team players with depth groups based on their needs.

Rookies set for bigger roles may play more than expected. Veterans struggling in training camp may also see more opportunity.

Each preseason game will be crucial for at least a third of the roster. Although it's hard to predict the workload for most of the squad, there are quite a few players who would benefit from strong showings in the preseason opener.

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Blake Bortles

Everything begins and ends with the starting quarterback this season. Bortles has produced an up-and-down performance in the early days of training camp. He needs to find consistency against the Patriots and offer a few standout plays during limited action. His development this offseason is the top storyline on the Jaguars' slate, so the quicker he shuts out the criticism, the better off he will be.

Cam Robinson

All eyes will be on the second-round pick as he tries to run away with the left tackle job. Robinson may not even get the start on Thursday, but he will have to make the most of whatever time he gets. Josh Wells isn't an intimidating threat and getting off to a strong start should help Robinson separate himself. While his pass blocking will be the main focus, his prowess in the running game will be just as vital.

Ben Koyack

The second-year tight end is in a good spot with Mychal Rivera battling an undisclosed injury. Koyack should be able to further his involvement in the offense with a strong preseason performance in Rivera's absence. While Marcedes Lewis is likely to be the featured tight end, Koyack could carve out his own role as a receiving-blocking double threat.

Patrick Omameh

Earlier this offseason, Marrone said Omameh was not a strong practice player last year and he only made the roster because of his preseason performance. Just like last preseason, Omameh can win a job with a strong showing at left guard. He is competing with Tyler Shatley for the fifth starting spot on the offensive line and seems to be in the driver seat. The Jaguars' offensive line badly needs to improve its run-blocking ability this season and Omameh needs to be part of that elevation in play.

Corey Grant

With the addition of fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette, Grant finds himself back on the annual roster bubble. He has to stand out on special teams and make big breakaway plays on offense. He is the fastest player on offense and if he can make plays in the passing game, he will be very useful to the offense.

Hayes Pullard

After two seasons of backup duty, Pullard is being challenged by rookies and veteran free agents. He is the top backup at middle linebacker, but he could prove to be expendable if Josh McNary and Audie Cole outplay him. Pullard made a few plays at the start of training camp but he needs to transition that performance over to game action.

Lerentee McCray

The journeyman pass rusher seems to be squarely on the roster bubble entering the preseason. He has some special teams appeal and he needs to show he can be a productive member of the pass rush. McCray should see quite a bit of time against second and third-string talent this preseason. If he can out-duel rookie offensive linemen, he may have a future in Jacksonville.

Doran Grant

The former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback got off to a hot start during the offseason program but cooled off rapidly by the start of training camp. With pads on, Grant has steadily improved over the span of the last two weeks. He picked off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in joint practices and he is one of the few depth cornerbacks to have made an impact during training camp.

Jonathan Woodard

Despite being selected in last year's draft, Woodard will make his NFL game debut Thursday. He missed all of last season with an Achilles tear. He has been used on both sides of the line this offseason and could play his way onto the roster if he can prove to be a productive pass rusher in the preseason. At this point, Woodard remains an unknown.

Jalen Myrick

The seventh-round pick has consistently been beaten during drills in training camp. He needs to show he is a "gamer" in his first preseason outing. Whether it's on special teams or defense, Myrick needs to finally show his speed in a game setting. If the Jaguars are keeping with their "earn it" mentality, Myrick has a lot of room for improvement if he wants to make the 53-man roster.

The Jaguars will face the Patriots in New England at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

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