Patriots vs. Lions: 5 Things to Watch for in Preseason Week 3
The New England Patriots head to Detroit to take on the Lions for the second time in 10 months. Last time was a Thanksgiving showdown that saw the Lions play perhaps their best half of football all season, only to come up short as the Patriots trounced them for a score of 45-24.
The final score doesn't matter in this one, but try telling that to any of the players who have something to prove this week.
And whenever the Patriots take the field, there's always something to prove. Here are just a few things to watch in the game.
Albert Haynesworth's First Game Back?
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All the hype and all the questions may finally come to a head on Saturday night, as Albert Haynesworth could suit up for the first time as a New England Patriot. Then, all the hype and all the questions will abruptly come right back to the forefront when we realize it's just a preseason game.
Haynesworth brings his talents to a defense that is looking for improvement on a league-worst third-down ratio of 47.14 percent conversions allowed, and a pass defense that ranked 25th. The Patriots have improved in both areas in the preseason, but they need to carry that over to the regular season when it matters.
Update: Haynesworth not likely to play.
Can Taylor Price Bring His A-Game?
In the first preseason game against the Jaguars, Price put himself on the map with five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. He dove off the map the next week, as he was held out of practice and the Week 2 game against the Buccaneers with an injury.
Now that Price has returned to practice, it appears he could also return to the playing field. Will he get a chance to catch passes from Tom Brady? Will he perform up to the high standard he set in that first game? These are questions Patriots followers will be waiting to see answered.
With Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch and Wes Welker all over 30, the receiving corps could definitely use an injection of youth. Price's best efforts are needed for him to earn playing time in the regular season, which will ultimately help him develop rapport with Brady and gain valuable game experience in the offense.
Nate Solder Playing Guard?
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The Patriots' first-round draft choice Nate Solder played left tackle for most of his career at Colorado. If New England's recent practices are any indication, he could be in for a very quick change of scenery. Reports out of Patriots camp have put Solder at right guard in place of Dan Connolly and the retired Steve Neal.
Connolly did a fine job as a backup for Mankins during the Pro Bowl guard's eight-week holdout during the 2010 season, but his best role has been as a role-player and swing man for the offensive line, filling in where needed.
Solder's size could actually be a disadvantage for him at guard. At 6'8", he is considered a little tall for a guard, but his quick feet give him a chance against an agile defender like Ndamukong Suh. He'll need any chance he can get against the big All-Pro defensive tackle.
With question marks about Solder's lean frame coming out of college, who knows if he's physical enough to play down there and line up against guys like Suh with any kind of consistency. Of course, if the Lions really want to grab headlines, they'd put Nick Fairley in over guard and let the two 2011 first-round draft choices go at it. That would be a sight to see.
Can the Patriots Defense Hold off Matthew Stafford?
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Matthew Stafford has been known as being one of the best young quarterbacks in the league when he's healthy. He has proven it with three touchdown passes in two preseason games to date.
He looks to improve on those numbers Saturday night. The Patriots defense looks primed to stop him, though, having held opposing offenses to a 48.18 passer rating and no touchdowns through their first two preseason games.
The Patriots have accomplished this with a great deal of pressure, so we'll see how the Lions offensive line holds up in the face of obscene pressure.
Devin McCourty vs. Calvin Johnson
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The last time these two teams met, Devin McCourty and Calvin Johnson spent most of the evening lined up across from one another. Johnson had a solid performance with four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown, but that didn't come without a pair of interceptions from McCourty, including one where he simply out-physicaled and out-leaped Johnson for the pick.
It may be the preseason, and it may happen for only one quarter. Regardless, this should be a pretty fun match-up to watch.