Third-year player Tyler Gaffney and undrafted rookie free agent D.J. Foster are vying for a roster spot behind LeGarrette Blount and James White, while Brandon Bolden is likely safe because of his special-teams value.
Julian Edelman made the trip and looked a bit rusty in playing 17 snaps last week, so perhaps he’s back for a bit more action in this game. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell is progressing from an elbow injury sustained Aug. 11, but isn’t expected to play while Danny Amendola remains on the PUP list. Aaron Dobson and Keshawn Martin could be competing for one spot.
Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett are locked atop the depth chart, leaving the main question at the No. 3 spot between seven-year veteran Clay Harbor and 2015 sixth-round draft choice A.J. Derby. That competition seems close, while fullback James Develin has some cross-over at this spot and brings a hard-nosed approach to the attack.
Right guards Jonathan Cooper (foot) and Shaq Mason (hand) appear to be progressing in their recoveries, but aren’t expected to play on Thursday night, so it’s a good chance to evaluate depth, such as Chris Barker and sixth-round pick Ted Karras (Illinois). Also, the sometimes-overlooked swing tackle position, where LaAdrian Waddle is vying for a spot, warrants a closer look with veteran right tackle Sebastian Vollmer potentially out for the year.
Alan Branch returns from a team suspension to join 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown as the top options, while 2016 third-round pick Vincent Valentine is a lock and played with notable power last week. Interior sub rusher Anthony Johnson and five-year veteran Markus Kuhn are in the mix for backup spots and figure to get a closer look in this game.
With Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin not playing, one lingering question is if Jabaal Sheard (knee) has progressed enough to suit up. Veteran Chris Long and 2015 fourth-round pick Trey Flowers have been logging a lot of snaps in recent weeks.
This probably will be the debut of former Cleveland Brown Barkevious Mingo, who also could fall into the defensive end category as a hybrid player. There doesn’t seem to be much uncertainty at linebacker with Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower atop the depth chart, followed by Jonathan Freeny and Mingo, with 2016 sixth-round pick Kamu Grugier-Hill making his mark as a core special-teamer and fellow sixth-rounder Elandon Roberts looking like a solid practice-squad candidate.
Undrafted Cre’Von LeBlanc (Florida Atlantic) was making a charge for a roster spot before being sidelined this week due to injury. So that could affect his availability against the Giants and give a chance for fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones to make his case.
This group bounced back last week with Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon notching interceptions and has been one of the more stable units from a roster-projection standpoint since the start of training camp.