The third preseason game is usually used as the last real tune up for the beginning of the regular season for every team. The starters usually play the most, playing until the first or second drive of the third quarter. So in advance of tonight's game against the Detroit Lions, let's take a look at what Patriots fans should look for from the team.
1. Offensive Line Play
The offensive line was one of the team's strengths last season as it was able to open holes for running back Steven Ridley on his way to over 1,200 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. They also were able to give Tom Brady enough time to dissect defenses and put up another great season. As they prepare for tonight's game they will go up against what is to be one of the better and more intriguing defensive lines in the game as they face Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Jones and Ezekiel Ansah. It will be a great test, especially for Will Svitek who is playing in place for Dan Connolly as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. However, he will be put the test especially against Suh and Fairley.
2. Julian Edelman and the wide receivers
With the status of wide receiver Danny Amendola seemingly in doubt as he has missed all the team's practices this week, it will be interesting to see how the wide receivers work with Tom Brady. Amendola seemed to be Brady's go-to receiver last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So who steps up in as Brady and the first team offense get their longest run of the preseason. Will it be Julian Edelman who is the only receiver who caught a pass from Tom Brady last season to return to the team? Or will rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce emerge as a favorite target.
3. Secondary play against Calvin Johnson
The Patriots face the best wide receiver in the NFL in Calvin Johnson. For Patriots fans, it doesn't need to be mentioned that the secondary was one of the worst last season. Although it caused turnovers, teams had no trouble passing against them, With another year under the belts of most of the younger players, it will be a good barometer to see where the secondary is at as they face Calvin Johnson. Aqib Talib will likely be matched up with him for most of the time the first team defense is on the field with help coming from the safety. However, double teams haven't stopped Johnson before and in order to see where the Patriots secondary is, they will have to see how they defend the big play ability of Johnson.
4. The front seven of the defense
When you look at the front seven of the Patriots defense, it is a very interesting group that has the upside to be one of the best in the NFL. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the first team defense gave Josh Freeman fits and produced three sacks in the first couple of series from linebacker Brandon Spikes and Chandler Jones. Later the defense also got another sack from Rob Ninkovich and forced backup quarterback Mike Glennon into an interception by rookie defensive back Logan Ryan who returned it for a touchdown. The Patriots can mask their weakness in the secondary with a good pass rush, so it will good to see how they handle Reggie Bush and the offensive line of the Lions.
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