NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
There’s a lot to get excited about for tonight’s Lions game: rookies, highly touted free agents, second-year potential studs, etc. What I’m most excited about though is potentially getting to see exactly what the divide will be between first string, second string and third string for the Patriots.
During last week’s game, there were so many injuries it was tough to decide which players were being used in a first string role out of necessity.
Quarterback: As most NFL fans know, the third preseason game is where we get to see starters play the longest. Considering Brady played half of the Bucs game, it’s likely we’ll see him play about the same tonight. I hope we’ll get to see a quarter out of Brian Hoyer and a quarter out of Ryan Mallett as well.
Running back: Shane Vereen is back! But Stevan Ridley is most likely out… Not to say that preseason gives you a good idea of what to expect during the regular season, but I’d say we’ve seen enough out of Ridley to see he could be a solid contributor. We’ll see if Vereen can provide the same spark for the Patriots tonight. I would expect Vereen to play strictly in rushing downs tonight if he is used with the first stringers. I hope we don’t see Danny Woodhead after the big blow he took last week. (UPDATE: Vereen is no longer expected to play.)
Wide receiver: With Taylor Price, Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate back, it will be very exciting to see our second string wide receivers battle for a job on the Pats roster. Hopefully it will also mean less of Matt Slater split out wide. Price impressed in week one, let’s see if Tate can match that excitement as a third year pro.
Tight end: As I wrote last week, I’d expect the Patriots to only carry three tight ends this season. That means this could be a make or break game for Will Yeatman, Lee Smith and Garrett Mills.
Offensive line: The more we get to see Nate Solder and Steve Maneri, the more excited I get about our reserve tackles. We’ll get to see our starting offensive line blocking for Brady for the first time tonight as well. Hopefully they don’t let Ndamukong Suh loose to tear Brady’s head off.
Defensive tackles/ends: With Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis possibly seeing their first action as Patriots, we’ll get to see what the rotation might be this season. Myron Pryor and Kyle Love have been very impressive as starters, but their roles will likely be severely diminished tonight.
Defensive ends/outside linebackers: Unfortunately we probably won’t get to see Jermaine Cunningham tonight, but we will get to see plenty of Eric Moore, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, three of the standout defensive performers so far.
Linebackers: Ricky Brown! Niko Koutouvides! Ouch. Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher are likely out, so we’ll be seeing a lot of these recent acquisitions in Detroit. Since Jerod Mayo has been playing so many roles this preseason, might we see him get some reps at MLB?
Cornerbacks: Ras-I! Dowling is finally practicing and color me excited. Since Darius Butler, Kyle Arrington and Jonathan Wilhite have mostly failed to impress against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, hopefully Dowling will be able to fill that CB3 role. (UPDATE: Dowling is no longer expected to play.)
Safety: James Sanders will get to see his first action of the preseason and it will be fun to see him battle Brandon Meriweather for that starting free safety role. Sergio Brown will likely take a backseat to Sanders and Meriweather, though I would expect to see him take some first team reps. Josh Barrett is also back.
Special Teams: Matt Katula is really all there is to see here. Lets hope he can get his snaps back in order.