New England Patriots: What We Learned from Pats-Saints Exhibition Game

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New England Patriots: What We Learned from Pats-Saints Exhibition Game
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The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints continued their offseason partnership from 2010 when the Saints came to Gillette Stadium for joint practices and an exhibition game.

The Patriots ended up prevailing 7-6, but the score wasn't of concern for either team. Both teams wanted to see how their players looked in a live game. The Pats saw their offseason acquisitions in action, as well as their seasoned veterans. 

Here is what we learned from the Pats-Saints exhibition game on Thursday night. 

 

Chandler Jones Is the Real Deal

Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones showed his potential as a pass rusher, consistently getting good pressure on the quarterback. Jones was getting to the quarterback so often that he drew a few holding calls. He harassed Pro Bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod while he was on the field.

Jones used his exceptional length to hold off blockers, and he used his size to shed them and rush the passer. He showed the completeness in his game, displaying a good motor, nice power and a natural desire to get after the quarterback.

 

The Offensive Line Will Struggle Without Its Pro Bowl Guards

Until either Logan Mankins or Brian Waters return to the team, the offensive line will have a difficult time containing potent pass rushers. Mankins is still recovering from a torn ACL and Brian Waters hasn't reported to camp yet for undisclosed reasons. 

Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Brian Waters' absence from camp is puzzling, and his return is important to the Patriots' offensive line.

Nate Solder, who was expected to be one of the strong points on the line, had trouble holding back DE Will Smith. The Saints defensive end got good pressure, and strip-sacked Tom Brady in the first quarter. 

 

The Pats went through the game switching out different linemen, but no combination seemed to work very well. The Saints had no trouble hurrying the quarterback.

Even though any team would struggle without two of their top linemen, the offensive line will be a huge area of concern for the Pats going into the season. Mankins' and Waters' returns are imperative to the success of the team in 2012.

 

The Running Back Position Will Be Just Fine

Second-year running back Stevan Ridley was expected to be the starter going into the season, and he further solidified his role as the starter, showing great burst off the edge on several of his runs. Ridley averaged five yards per carry, carrying the ball eight times for 40 yards. 

Shane Vereen was exceptional on the Pats' only scoring drive, gaining 73 of 83 yards. The drive resulted in a touchdown. 

Undrafted free agent rookie back Brandon Bolden was decent after impressing in training camp. He was on the field for seven snaps in the first half and he saw more playing time in the second half, along with Vereen. 

It seems as though Stevan Ridley's dominance at LSU will carry over to the Pats.

Versatile Danny Woodhead showed good field vision when he was playing, and he showed that he could potentially be a bigger part of the rushing attack.

With four talented backs expected to make the final roster, the Pats should not be concerned with that position.

 

Dane Fletcher Will Likely Be Gone for the Year, Opens Door for Young Players

Dane Fletcher, the 25-year-old linebacker, went down with an injury in the first quarter, and it was later revealed that he had suffered a torn ACL.

His recovery period will likely be somewhere around eight-12 months, which is the standard for ACL injuries.

The injury paves the way for young LBs Jeff Tarpinian and Mike Rivera to take a spot on the final roster. Tarpinian played in limited action last year, whereas Rivera has spent his entire short career on the practice squad.

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