Third game, third OLB combination

When identifying the top 10 things to monitor from a Patriots perspective for the team's preseason game against the Rams on Thursday night, a clear-cut No. 1 choice didn't emerge. If five different people put together a similar list, there might be five different top areas to monitor.

For this week, the choice was the outside linebacker spot as it relates to the pass rush.

The feeling here is that this week's projected combination at outside linebacker -- Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain -- will be the opening-day starters. This will be the first chance to see them playing together this preseason.

In the first preseason game, it was a Marques Murrell/Banta-Cain combination, as Burgess had yet to report.

In the second preseason game, it was a Murrell/Burgess combination, as Banta-Cain was sidelined with an injury.

So this should be a good week to see what the Burgess/Banta-Cain combination can do out of the 3-4 alignment, as the Rams are starting a rookie left tackle (Rodger Saffold), a second-year right tackle (Jason Smith), and a rookie quarterback (Sam Bradford).