Yikes, that was rough. In what has been an otherwise fluid and successful preseason for the New England Patriots, their game against the Detroit Lions represents the first bump in the road they have had to climb over after getting beaten down 40-9. The offense couldn’t get anything going all night and had five turnovers. Consequently, the first team defense played well, but the second and third team was atrocious. Here’s the takeaway from the game.
This was the first time that we have seen Tom Brady really struggle against preseason competition. Although he had some good throws here and there, he constantly got happy feet and looked very skittish in the pocket. Although Aaron Dobson didn’t help, he made a very ill-advised throw into what looked like triple coverage and was picked off.
He was on the field for nine drives and came away with only three points. It was not very Brady-like.
Ryan Mallett didn’t look much better. He was very inconsistent and had trouble with accuracy. He did have one touchdown drive where he looked decent, but outside of that it was not very compelling. A big takeaway was the absence of the legendary Tim Tebow. He didn’t play a snap all night even with the crowd chanting his name in the fourth quarter. Just something to keep in mind as first cuts are on August 27th.
Overall QB Grade: C
Just like with quarterbacks, the running backs struggled. Ridley couldn’t find any holes and had nine carries for just six yards. It’s worth noting that the Lions have one of the most talented defensive lines in football. The biggest issue was fumbling with both Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden coughing up the football.. With Bolden fighting for a roster spot and LeGarrette Blount actually getting a few good runs here or there, that fumble might be more costly than he thinks. Leon Washington was not a factor at all this game and may be on the roster bubble.
Overall RB Grade: C-
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The wide receivers were really the only position that stood out on offense. Specifically it was Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins was great as he hauled in eight catches for 116 yards on 12 targets. Although he is an UDFA, he is clearly ahead of the other rookie wide receivers and it shows in his stats. Dobson didn’t have an A+ night, but he had his moments. He was great blocking tonight and made a couple nice catches. Whats telling is that most of his targets are coming at 15 and 20 yards down the field, which should give you a general idea of what they plan to do with him this season. Zach Sudfeld had only one catch and then was benched until the fourth quarter due to a fumble.
Overall WR + TE Grade: B
This was the worst unit on the team hands down. The pocket was constantly being flooded and Brady kept getting hit. The run game was going nowhere fast and it was because no one could get any sort of push tonight. Although he is only one player, the performance of guard Will Svitek has been straight bad. It was nice seeing a little Dan Connolly tonight as he is your incumbent starter at that position.
Overall OL Grade: D
Finally we get to the positives. This was the best group tonight as Rob Ninkovich, Tommy Kelly and Chandler Jones were constantly reeking havoc in the backfield. The stats don’t show it, but these three guys played great. They constantly beat their blocks and were making plays. As I state every week about this unit, its going to be really really good. There’s more proof of that after this game.
Overall DL Grade: A-
As a whole, this unit was a little iffy, but its performance is boosted by Brandon Spikes. He played his best game so far and was all over the field and actually looked decent in coverage at times. Dont’a Hightower didn’t play his best. We saw him miss a few tackles he normally makes and take the wrong angles in times where he usually knows the right one. It just seemed like this group was a little off tonight, but altogether it was pretty average
Overall LB Grade: B-
Now I know what everyone is going to say. This game was a lot easier for them since Calvin Johnson wasn’t playing and Nate Burleson was the No. 1 wide receiver. Although that is a good point, this unit played very well. While Devin McCourty was on the field, there were no big plays down the field and everything was caught underneath. He missed a few tackles, but he might just be shaking off the rust.
Although the unit as a whole played very well, the one player who was maybe the worst tonight was Adrian Wilson. On multiple occasions, we saw him over pursue the ball-carrier and completely miss the tackle. He is known as a big hitter, but he needs to make the fundamental tackles. He was brought in to bring a leadership aspect to this secondary, but right now he might be on the roster bubble as well as he played all the way into the fourth quarter, which is unheard of in the preseason.
Overall DB Grade: A-
Not much to report here as it was a pretty unexciting night for the special teams unit. Stephen Gostkowski did make a field goal and Ryan Allen and Zoltan Mesko both looked very good, but Zoltan seems to have the edge right now.
Overall ST Grade: B-
That’s it for this week! I’ll be back next week for the final preseason game report.