NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The third preseason game is notoriously hailed as the “realest” of all the preseason games. That wasn’t the case last night, as the Patriots were thoroughly beaten in their attempt to sort out their roster. With roster cut downs slated to begin on Tuesday this was the last opportunity for bubble players to change minds. What did we learn from the third preseason game and did anyone play their way onto the roster?
1. It was an ugly first quarter plus for the Patriots and I thought a lot of their struggles were a direct result of the Lions defensive line. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley consistently pushed the OL into the backfield, dominating the run game and outworking the Patriots offensive line. The Lions ends were also very active with the pass rush, keeping Tom Brady off-balance and uncomfortable in the pocket.
2. Will Svitek was especially awful. I thought he struggled badly last week when asked to play guard and his first half tonight was disasterous. Svitek has never played OG and is only doing so because of injuries. His value to the team is his ability to play both tackle positions, I just don’t like what I see at guard.
3. The Patriots passing attack came out clicking once again until a Zach Sudfeld fumble derailed an encouraging drive inside the ten yard line. Mistakes are expected from the rookies, but a fumble in that area just can’t happen. When things like this happen in the preseason it can be a good thing, you know Bill Belichick and the entire coaching staff will be on his butt the entire week. The next time Sudfeld catches a pass you know his first thought will be ball security.
4. Kenbrell Thompkins has star potential. He had one big time drop on 3rd down, which is basically a turnover, but other than that he shined. Thompkins’ ability to get off the line and beat press coverage is by far his most impressive asset thus far. Twice he left the CB in the dust off the line, getting himself open for big gains. Like the other rookies there were some mistakes that can’t happen in the regular season, but overall there was a lot more good for Thompkins than bad.
5. Preseason games like this are tough to evaluate. The Patriots put an emphasis on getting looks at certain players, implementing new plays and putting players in situations that will test them. There is no doubt the game management is much different than we will see in the regular season. The turnovers and drops on offense are definitely discouraging, but when evaluating this game it’s important to look at it in bits and pieces like the coaching staff will be doing.
6. There is no doubt the Patriots rookie class and the receivers especially are an impressive group. But, for everyone expecting them to have a seamless transition to NFL stardom, they have to slow their roll. With so many rookies Patriot fans have to be patient and allow time to develop. I think it will be a case of the rookies getting better each week and hopefully by November-December the offense will be clicking on all cylinders. The Patriots and fans will just have to take the good with the bad because mistakes are going to happen.
7. I thought the defensive front seven was very good once again. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were dominate on a play by play basis. Each one consistently pushed the pocket and got a hand in Matthew Stafford’s face to force a quick throw. Rob Ninkovich was particularly instinctive sniffing out screens and draw plays.
8. Vince Wilfork got the night off, but it didn’t effect the play of fellow DT Tommy Kelly. Kelly was impressive once again, collapsing the pocket and getting push against the run. From all I have seen this preseason, there is no doubt he will have a big impact on this Patriots defense.
9. With Vince Wilfork down, UDFA Joe Vellano got the start and played the majority of snaps at defensive tackle. The fact that Vellano was the DT to start and not Cory Grissom or Marcus Forston, bodes well for his chances to make the roster. Vellano didn’t make a huge impact, but fought off double teams, held his ground and didn’t get pushed around. While we haven’t seen it utilized much yet, his best assett is his ability to slant and shoot gaps. He’s also got a great motor, which will help him make the team.
10. Once again I thought the starting cornerbacks played well when called upon. Aqib Talib made an impact in coverage and rookie Logan Ryan played a huge number of snaps again. At the beginning of camp it looked as though it might be a redshirt type year for Ryan, but he has shown he is ready to make an impact this year. Let’s not forget that starting CB Alfonzo Dennard has yet to suit up in games this preseason, which will only enhance this CB group.
11. The second half was a trainwreck. In fact I am not even going to attempt to break it down without watching it again. What I saw in a half-hearted attempt to analyze was a pathetic attempt at tackling, breakdowns in the secondary by Duron Harmon, Justin Green and others, as well as zero push from the line. For some of those guys it’s the last competitive football game they will ever play and what a way to go out.
12. Aaron Dobson needs to be more physical at the top of his routes and off the line. Once a defender gets hands on him, his feet stop and he has to reset. He’s not quick or shifty enough to create sepearation, so the only way he will be successful is if he wins with strength. We haven’t seen it to this point.
13. Ryan Mallet took a big step back tonight, although the offensive line and pieces around him did little to help.
14. I’ve seen all I need from Brandon Bolden. Yes, he can flash at times, but he makes too many mistakes for my liking and can’t stay healthy. He got hurt yet again tonight.
15. I think the Patriots are still trying to figure out how to properly use Jamie Collins.
16. Dont’a Hightower has been very mediocre this preseason.
17. The Patriots came out of this 3rd preseason game pretty healthy and thats the biggest victory of all.