Patriots vs. Lions: 5 Things To Watch for During the Week 3 Preseason Matchup

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIAugust 26, 2011

Patriots vs. Lions: 5 Things To Watch for During the Week 3 Preseason Matchup

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    Week 3 of the preseason is arguably the most enjoyable game of the exhibition season, as traditionally the first team players receive a significant chunk of playing time. 

    The third game is definitely a great way to analyze your team and track the progress on how far they have come. For New England, there are a lot of things that need to be worked on and improved upon and it will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick handles those issues.

    Here are five things to watch for during the Patriots' third preseason game. 

How Albert Haynesworth Is Used in New England's Defense

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    As Albert Haynesworth continues to practice with the Patriots, it is expected that he'll get a significant chunk of playing time against the Detroit Lions

    Haynesworth was acquired by New England in late July via a trade with Washington, but has yet to play in any of the team's preseason games.

    As Bill Belichick transforms his one 3-4 defensive squad into a 4-3 alignment, it's going to be interesting to see how Haynesworth plays in their new defense. It's almost expected that Haynesworth will thrive in the 4-3, as defensive tackle is his natural position. 

    If the team does decide to play Haynesworth against Detroit, he'll likely pair up with Vince Wilfork to create a dominant interior force along New England's front seven. 

If Chad Ochocinco Gets More Involved

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    Granted, Chad Ochocinco reeled in a touchdown in his New England preseason debut, however, it just didn't seem like he was involved in New England's offense. 

    Ochocinco caught two balls, one for a score, and only accumulated 14 yards.

    At times, Ochocinco seemed lost, something that needs to be resolved quickly. Otherwise, he will be in for an extremely long season as a Patriot. 

    If Tom Brady and his newly acquired All-Pro wide receiver can get on the same page, they'll take New England's offense to a whole new level. 

If Rookie Running Back Shane Vereen Plays

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    Believe it or not, Shane Vereen was selected ahead of Stevan Ridley and is projected to be even more dynamic than the rookie out of LSU. 

    Vereen, who's yet to play in a game this preseason, made his first appearance in New England's practice this week after nearly a month off due to a hamstring injury. Vereen has reportedly recovered and said, "I think my body feels behind, it's sore...But I feel good...I'm ready to play." 

    Vereen was New England's 56th overall choice during the second-round of this year's draft and is expected to be a key player in the team's passing attack, especially in screen passes. 

How Well Ryan Mallett Rebounds from His Interception Against the Bucs

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    Ryan Mallett kicked off his first NFL preseason with a bang as he went 12 of 19 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, while throwing one touchdown and accumulating 164 yards.

    However, in the rookie's second preseason game, he wasn't as electric as he was the week prior. Mallett went nine of 14 for 71 yards while throwing one interception, which happened to be returned for a touchdown.

    It's unclear if Mallett will get playing time, as it's expected that Tom Brady will get a lot of reps against Detroit, which means time could be limited for New England's backups Mallett and Brian Hoyer. 

If New England's Defense Continues to Be Aggressive

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    Last Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England's new and improved 4-3 defense shut down Tampa's first team defense and managed to put a ton of pressure on Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson.

    At times, New England sent Jerod Mayo right through the A gap and was able to go unblocked and put tremendous pressure on the passer and even recorded two sacks. 

    Mayo, Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich were all able to present major issues in Tampa Bay's pass protection. 

    Against the Bucs, it's almost as though Bill Belichick let the dogs loose—especially Mayo. It's unclear if New England will continue this trend throughout the preseason and into the regular season, but it was pleasant to watch the Patriots force the opposing quarterback into making poor decisions for once.

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