Patriots Pre-Season Game Three: Things To Watch

AJ Spirito – Pats Militia

The third and most anticipated NFL preseason game is tonight for the Patriots in Detroit, Michigan. The third game is where the starters see the most action, playing until the third quarter usually. Here are some things to watch for:

1.) Who will get the most action at running back alongside Brady?
One of the most crowded positions on the Patriots roster is at running back and it’s been interesting to see who will get the most time in each game with the regular season quickly approaching. The Pats don’t really ever have a “featured” back like other teams but last season it was LeGarrette Blount handling most of the load with James White (and eventually Dion Lewis) doing a lot through the passing game as the “passing-backs” as Madden 18 likes to call them. Now that Blount is gone and Gillislee and Burkhead are added it’s a big question to whether all of these guys will make the 53 man roster. Four running backs is a lot but if anyone is going to do it it’s going to be New England. In the preseason so far we have seen James White and Rex Burkhead play alongside Brady, with Dion Lewis getting time with Jimmy Garoppolo. We have yet to see Mike Gillislee take snaps in a game and I think we may see him out there tonight. However, I think Lewis will get a lot of time in this game, especially with Brady. I don’t want to say Lewis is on the bubble but it just feels like he’s the odd man out when it comes to this crowded stable of backs. With that being said I think he’ll shine tonight.

2.) How long will Brady play?
There is really no reason for Tom to be playing in these meaningless games but he’s a competitor and he wants to beat everyone no matter what time of year it is. In years past we’ve seen Brady go into the third quarter of the third preseason game but tonight I only expect to see him play a half. Thank heavens we don’t need to worry about Ndamukong Suh on that Detroit side anymore, he’s good for a couple cheap shots a game (even in the preseason).

3.) How will the secondary do?
Last week the Pats starting secondary got torched against the Texans mediocre passing attack. It may have only been a couple of drives but Malcolm Butler really didn’t look like himself. Look for Butler and the rest of the secondary to rebound tonight and play well against the Lions. The bar is high for the cornerback duo of Gilmore and Butler and tonight we should see plenty of them.

4). Defensive End?
One of the biggest flaws in this Patriots team is at defensive end. We didn’t get to see Trey Flowers last week and I expect to see him on the field tonight. It was reported that the Patriots are shopping newly acquired Kony Ealy around so it’ll be interesting to see if he plays with the starters or not. Something must have gone really wrong with Ealy that they are already trying to deal him. Last week he appeared to be invisible as he didn’t do much of anything on the defensive side of things. With the defensive end position being so thin it’s time for someone to step up and earn a spot or Coach Belichick may end up trading for or signing someone who can.

Prediction

It will be great to see starters from both teams going at it tonight in what will feel like the closest thing to real football until September 7th. I’ll go ahead and make some meaningless preseason predictions here: Patriots 31 Detroit 17. Brady will throw one touchdown and Dion Lewis will have a rushing touchdown to highlight the play of the starters. The New England starting defense will rebound from a week ago and play very well against Detroit’s starters, only allowing a field goal.

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