Editor’s note: The Pre-Game meal is a weekly column by NEPD staff writer B. Delabarrera, previewing that week’s opponent and the crucial matchups.
The time of year has come once again for hard-hitting action, gallons of beverages, and Sunday nights spent arguing with Chris Collinsworth. I couldn’t be any happier; the NFL is back.
After a several days of joint-practices with N.O., the Pats will take on the Saints at Gillette Stadium for the preseason opener. The first day of practice looked good offensively, especially with the addition of rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and the help that they will provide in the red area. The Patriot defense, however, seems to have picked up right where it left off on that tragic night in the Superdome. There is a lot of work, and even more opportunity, for the young bloods to do this season.
“You’re not really sure what they’re going to do. It’s preseason. They’re not really sure what we’re going to.” – QB coach Bill O’Brien
Keeping that in mind, we’re going to do something a little different here too. My favorite part about the first preseason game is checking out all the rookies for the first time out of college, even just the new Patriots for that matter. My grandfather only watches NCAA and some preseason stuff for the simple fact that he appreciates dedication, hard work, and athletes who haven’t been tarnished by the limelight. So here’s to a great end to camp, an even better beginning of the season, and the future of the Patriots organization.
DB: Devin McCourty – I was the only person in a room of 15 Mass. residents to throw my arms up in excitement about the Pats first-round selection. I’ve seen him play plenty at Rutgers University and I’m confident in the positives that he will bring to our defense. Physically, Devin is a monster, and his knowledge of the game is vast. (If you doubt that you should probably YouTube his Sports Science video.) I know he may or may not have been a burn-victim at camp this summer, but you’ll see. You heard it here.
*Nick Caserio on the differences between McCourty and Butler: “I think there are some similarities and there are some differences. Darius is very athletic. He’s got good quickness. He’s got good playing speed. He plays the ball well. Devin is a little bit bigger, a little stronger. I’d say their vertical speed is comparable.”
WR: Taylor Price – Battling with speed-demon Brandon Tate won’t be the most fun, but it will surely be positive for this guy’s future. The 6-foot, 205 lbs, former Ohio wideout was making some pretty good catches out against the Saints. Thursday will be his first chance to really show New England what he has learned as a student of Randy Moss, Torry Holt, and Wes Welker. Our passing attack is deadly enough as it is, all signs point to a Tom Brady Field Day in 2010.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (Biff Tannen) & Aaron Hernandez – All that really matters is that neither of these two names have anything to do with the corpse formerly known as Ben Watson. The tight end position has been re-energized with youth and power. Gronk is just one big, talented guy. I don’t see how his size and strength doesn’t instantly help the passing and running game. Hernandez is fitting in nicely as well; his cuts are quick and his bursts after the catch are apparently quicker.
LBs: Brandon Spikes & Jermaine Cunningham – Born to be a linebackers; big, tough guys that studied under Urban Meyer. The bad news about the LBs has been mostly injury-related. Spikes has been seeing some time at OLB during the final days of practice. In 2009, pressure on the quarterback was a huge concern that still hangs over the defense. Hopefully the addition of these two Gators will provide a little spark in not only pressure, but pass-defense as well. It’d be nice to see one or both of these buys put Brees on his backside come Thursday.
P: Zoltan Mesko – If you have a Twitter and follow Patriots news, you already know too much about the Patriots lone, Eastern-European punter. His first day at joint practice was a little shaky, no doubt in his ability though.
It’s going to be quite the experience for these newcomers to take on the Super Bowl champs in their first real NFL look, but a fun one at that. Football is here to stay for the next 6 months so enjoy! I know I will. Which rookie are you most excited to see on the field?
Come back for more Pre-Game meals each week here at NEPD.
– B. DelaBarrera