CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The New England Patriots coaching staff is making some critical evaluations on personnel as roster cuts will be made in the coming week, and Friday's 19-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers revealed some of the players they wanted to get an extended look at in game action.
Notably, undrafted rookie Cre'Von LeBlanc played a team-high 59 snaps as he makes a charge for a possible fifth spot at cornerback behind starters Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan and top reserves Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman.
LeBlanc entered the game in the second quarter, giving him time to work against Cam Newton and the Panthers' No. 1 offense. He was credited with one pass defended and seemed to be competitive in coverage.
When Bill Belichick was asked about the 5-foot-11, 190-pound LeBlanc earlier this offseason, he noted a comparison to Butler (also undrafted) in that his pre-draft testing numbers didn't necessarily reflect the speed with which he plays on the field. Belichick had also called LeBlanc's one-handed interception against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener a "special" play.
LeBlanc, out of Florida Atlantic, wasn't the only player to receive an extended look from the coaching staff on Friday night:
Chris Barker -- In a notable rotation at both guard spots, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Barker subbed in for starter Joe Thuney on the left side on the fourth drive of the game and then stepped in for rookie Ted Karras at right guard on the fifth drive. Like LeBlanc, he was competitive. Barker, who played in college at Nevada, has two credited NFL seasons and has bounced between the Patriots' practice squad and roster the last few years.
Jordan Richards -- The 2015 second-round draft choice from Stanford played 56 snaps, the second-highest total on the team, and struggled at times in man coverage. He also played on two of the four core special teams units. Richards projects to a backup role behind Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon, but the coaching staff still seems to be getting a feel for what Richards might bring the team.
Elandon Roberts -- The 2016 sixth-round draft choice from Houston played 46 snaps, the fourth-highest total among defenders, as he opened as the third linebacker alongside starters Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. That might have partially been a result of fellow rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill not playing due to an unexpected illness and also a result of matching up to a Panthers offense that plays with a lot of two-back and two-tight end sets. The evaluation of the coaching staff would likely be how Roberts (a likely practice-squad candidate) stacks up against veteran Jonathan Freeny.
Vincent Valentine -- The 2016 third-round draft choice out of Nebraska started at defensive tackle and played 27 snaps, facing his highest level of competition this summer. He's a lock to make the roster, with the only question how fast he might be able to contribute. Friday night gave the coaching staff more film to evaluate that potential timeline.