Perry: Five Patriots who are fighting for a roster spot vs. Raiders

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LAS VEGAS -- The Patriots have some work to do.

Sure, they have a preseason game Friday night against the Raiders. But the more meaningful work comes next week for their front office, when they have to trim their roster from 80 players to 53. 

That's not to say the preseason finale doesn't matter. In fact, depending on what happens, there may be a player who wins a job based on their work at Allegiant Stadium.

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Here are five who may be considered "on the bubble" and could be playing for a gig on Friday night...

Tre Nixon, WR

The Patriots don't appear to have the receiver depth they once did. Tyquan Thornton will miss the early portion of the regular season. Nelson Agholor couldn't finish Wednesday's practice (though he said afterward that he felt OK). Might Nixon be the beneficiary of a shortage at that spot?

He had a strong spring and showed up in Week 1 of the preseason with some long receptions. He's also worked in a variety of kicking-game roles throughout the summer and Bill Belichick has consistently lauded his work ethic.

Nixon putting together a productive night in Vegas may force the Patriots to hold onto him if they want him in the building. Otherwise he may get claimed if made available. 

Kody Russey, OL

The undrafted rookie out of Houston had a solid week of practice against the Panthers and finished it with an impressive preseason game. Has he won the backup interior offensive lineman role on the active roster?

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The Patriots may rather see Will Sherman or James Ferentz in that role. Having a player who can play both center and guard is preferred. While Russey looks more like a true center, maybe if he performs strongly against the Raiders, he'll take a roster spot.

LaBryan Ray, DL

Ray had a strong early stretch of training camp but hasn't appeared to pop quite as frequently in recent practices. If he looks hard to handle on Friday, the Patriots could be faced with a difficult choice.

Sixth-round pick Sam Roberts has also flashed powerful hands at times -- particularly in preseason games, which the rest of the league can see on tape -- as has DaMarcus Mitchell. Based on some of his work in the kicking game combined with his defensive potential, Mitchell feels like the best bet of the trio to make the roster.

J.J. Taylor, RB

How the Patriots handle their running-back room is anyone's guess. Will Pierre Strong make the team simply because he's a fourth-round pick? The Patriots have tried to get him activated in the kicking game in practices, but he hasn't necessarily stood out among his peers. What about Kevin Harris, the sixth-rounder?

Taylor is the kind of player you could envision lighting it up in a preseason game by using his quickness to pop a big run or two, or perhaps turning in an explosive play as a returner on special teams. Maybe it's a performance so strong that someone somewhere is willing to give him a roster spot come next week.

Carl Davis, DL

Davis has been a heavy-handed preseason defender. And he has enough tape in regular-season action over the years for teams to understand that he can play a role on their 53-man roster. But will he make the Patriots right out of the shoots?

How many interior lineman will they hold onto between Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore and potentially Roberts or Ray? Do the Patriots value that true nose-tackle spot -- Davis plays comfortably between Godchaux and Guy as a space-eater over the center -- to set aside a place on the roster for that role?

It's 2022, after all, and the space-eater age seems like a bygone era. Maybe with another run-stuff or two on Friday, Davis can play his way into a spot.

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