NFL Preseason: Patriots @ Lions – 5 Things To Watch For
After taking care of business against the Buccaneers with a 25-21 victory at home last Friday, the Patriots take on the Lions tonight in Detroit at 7:30. Game 3 of the preseason usually results in a heavy dose of the starters but no one knows with Belichick. What we do know is that WR Danny Amendola, DE Jermaine Cunningham and CB Brandon Jones were absent from practice this week. Furthermore, DE Justin Francis, OL Marcus Cannon, TE Daniel Fells, CB Ras-I Dowling and WR Kamar Aiken were all limited in practice Tuesday. With only two preseason games left, you can count on Belichick taking a hard, long look at his reserves against Detroit tonight and the Giants a week from today. If you’re tuning in to the game, check out these five things to watch for.
1) WR Corps: With Danny Amendola banged up for the week, the Patriots’ raw talent will get to showcase their talent tonight. Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson should get ample opportunity to build upon their solid preseason campaigns. Although Julian Edelman remains the punt returner, let’s not forget how valuable he is with the ball in his hands. Belichick is the master of putting players in a position to succeed, the system tends to always work only because Bill utilizes each player to the best of their abilities. Expect to see some new names getting some burn on the edges. To add some confidence to you guys out there, we have not had a pro bowl WR during our three Super Bowl victories.
2) Defensive Backs: After getting burned by DeSean Jackson in Week 1, CB Aqib Talib and the Patriots last line of defense stepped it up despite a 41-yard pass to old friend Tiquan Underwood. S Devin McCourty has yet to play in the preseason and will hopefully make his debut tonight. It feels like stone ages ago (and it is) when premiere CBs Ty Law and Asante Samuel were valuable pieces to the puzzle. Is this the year that New England sees someone like Alfonso Dennard or Tavon Wilson breakout? Keep an eye on the fiesty, turnover hungry defensive backs tonight.
3) Chandler Jones: The sophomore from Syracuse University got to Josh Freeman last week earning a couple QB hurries. While it would be nice to see him replicate that against the Lions, his health is the number one concern. Don’t be surprised to see Rookie Jamie Collins get some extra reps with his hand down as Cunningham was absent from practice this week. If New England can keep up the QB pressure they will be a VERY dangerous team this year.
4) Zach Sudfeld: Despite featuring the TEs in last week’s preview, this beast deserves some appreciation. He only recorded two catches for 32 yards but made an impressive TD grab on a tipped ball. It’s no secret we are thin at the position and those hands are needed as a security blanket for TB12. I don’t know what it is about this kid. His massive frame? His warrior like hair? His american name? Whatever it is, I dig it and need to see more of this animal.
5) RB Corps: Brandon Bolden led the way last week, gaining 38 yards on six carries – including a 25 yard scamper. Although the Patriots brought on Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount this offseason, something has got to give. Vereen may line up in different positions this year given our weaknesses, making room to keep all of these reserves. Washington adds value to the KR game but that’s about it. This position is a hot topic in my opinion, as you can never have too much RB depth. Our offense is complex in nature, turning on a no-huddle like it’s nothing and jamming it down opponents’ throat with the run or the pass. As long as Brady, the God according to Lion S Louis Delmas, is at the helm, I’m not worried.
It would be a real treat to see a full half of starters tonight but it seems unrealistic under the Belichick way. Tune in locally at 7:30 tonight as the Patriots look to improve to a 3-0 preseason record. Last preseason, New England also faced the Buccaneers, Eagles and Giants but ended up with a 1-3 record. Only time will tell who will get some burn tonight, who do you think is an important player to keep an eye on?