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Pats Pulpit: Pass Rush And OLB Play Important Focus For Patriots Thursday Night

Thursday night, the Patriots host the Rams in the third preseason exhibition of the summer. Typically, this is the game that sees the starters play the longest as the coaching staff uses it as a final tune-up before the regular season, and as such, it's often considered the most important. Pats Pulpit highlights six things to watch for:

Pass Rush/Outside Linebacker Play: Tully Banta-Cain returned to practice this week and is expected to play in tonight's game. With Banta-Cain back, we'll get our first look at the Banta-Cain/Derrick Burgess combination at outside linebacker. The two rushers will be going up against to young tackles in Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold, so they should be able to take advantage of their experience.

Offense in the 2nd Half: One of the problems the Patriots had last season was closing out games, and putting up points on offense in the 2nd half. With the starters expected to get their most extended playing time of the preseason, it will be interesting to see if they can gather a lead in the first half, then come out strong and extend it in the second half.

Inside Linebacker Rotation: With Gary Guyton finally healthy, the Patriots should get a chance to better evaluate the inside linebacker corps. Brandon Spikes will likely still be the starter, but it will be interesting to see how the Patriots can rotate in Guyton on passing downs.

Additionally, Greg Knopping touches on Offensive Line Depth, Secondary/Sub-Packages and Running Back Competition.