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Setting the Scene: Patriots-Saints

08.09.12 at 5:19 pm ET
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In an annual Patriots tradition, offseason workout winners adorn the cover of the first Gameday. (Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Clear skies and humid temperatures in the low 80s are expected for the first Patriots game since Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

Tom Brady, according to multiple reports, will play in tonight’s preseason opener against the Saints, who beat the Cardinals on Sunday night, 17-10, in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, OH.

Brady will likely play in at least the first two series of the game and get between 10-15 snaps of action as he tries to get accustomed to an offensive line that will be vastly different to start 2012.

Gone are Matt Light (retired), Logan Mankins (ACL recovery), Sebastian Vollmer (injured) and Brian Waters (absent from camp). Nate Solder figures to be the starting left tackle, as he’s seen the most action at that spot in camp. Dan Connolly is a candidate at left guard while Ryan Wendell could be replacing center Dan Koppen on the starting unit. On the right side, Donald Thomas has been seeing a great deal of action at guard while second-year lineman Marcus Cannon is expected to see plenty of time at right tackle.

The Saints are playing their second game without head coach Sean Payton. He has been replaced by interim coach Joe Vitt, who has been overseeing the two practices with the Patriots on Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Foxboro. Vitt has also been suspended for the first six games of the regular season with Steve Spagnuolo likely getting the nod to coach the team to start 2012.

With Brady starting for the Patriots, Drew Brees is likely to start for the Saints but again is only expected to see action for the first quarter.

On the defensive side of the ball, this will be the first chance for the Patriots to catch a glimpse of rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones. Both first round picks are expected to start with the first team as Hightower has been spending most of training camp lining up next to Jerod Mayo in the linebacker unit. With Brandon Spikes missing the last four practices, Hightower moved inside and Mayo has been playing on the outside.

Defensive end Chandler Jones has been seeing a lot of time on the right defensive end, the primary spot for pass rush in the NFL.

There are no official inactive lists for preseason games but with several players missing the last several practices, you can pretty much count on not seeing Spikes, defensive lineman Gerard Warren, defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, Ron Brace, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer and Tracy White.

In an annual tradition, the offseason workout winners in the Patriots weight training program adorn the cover of “GAMEDAY” and they are: WR/KR Julian Edelman, K Stephen Gostkowski, RB Danny Woodhead, DB Patrick Chung, OL Nate Solder, DL Jermaine Cunningham, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Bobby Carpenter and DL Trevor Scott.

Tonight also marks the first game the Patriots will play using NFL replacement officials. The officials are comprised from various college conferences around the country and select high profile and accomplished high school leagues.

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Bountygate, Drew Brees, Joe Vitt
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