Five Players To Watch In The Patriots, Lions Game Thursday Night

The New England Patriots take on the Detroit Lions in the third game of the preseason for both teams. The Patriots thus far are 2-0 and the Lions come in at 1-1, in what could be a dress rehearsal for both teams.

Bill Belichick during his Tuesday press conference said that the team was treating Tuesday as a normal Friday during the regular season and may have had the players studying more in an effort to get into that “regular season” mode.

Aaron Dobson, rookie WR for the Patriots will be looked to provide some big production in 2013. (SBalestrieri photo)

Aaron Dobson, rookie WR for the Patriots will be looked to provide some big production in 2013. (SBalestrieri photo)

With the game taking place tonight here are five players to watch for the Patriots:

Tom Brady- Brady has been razor sharp in the first two preseason games going 18-20 and leading the team to touchdown drives on four possessions. Brady has been sharp all summer and was on point during joint practices against both the Bucs and Eagles.

The last time the two teams met in the preseason of 2011, Brady was treated roughly by the Lions pass rush and the Patriots were routed 34-10. Brady ever the competitor will want to atone for that performance.

Shane Vereen- It was widely expected that Vereen was going to assume the third down duties held by Danny Woodhead in 2012. Vereen hasn’t disappointed so far this summer and has been impressive both running and catching the football.

Vereen could play a big role in tonight’s game, with the Lions having an impressive front four that can bring pressure on the QB from any position, Vereen coming out of the backfield on screens could help slow the pass rush.

And putting Vereen in motion against one of the Lion’s linebackers would be an obvious mismatch in favor of the Patriots….circle this one tonight.

Devin McCourty/Aqib Talib- It’s not known if McCourty will play tonight, he just recently took off the red non-contact jersey and the team may opt to hold him out just as a precaution. But whoever the FS is, they need to have better timing on getting over and helping the corners with deep coverage, something that’s been an issue so far.

Talib will be tasked with the unenviable position of having to deal with Calvin Johnson; ‘Megatron’ is one of the toughest receivers to cover one-on-one in the league and has the total package, size, speed and physicality.

The Lions passing game suffered without Johnson last week against Cleveland and they’ll want to get him involved right away. Talib as well as the entire secondary will have a stiff test against Megatron. After getting burned by DeSean Jackson in the opener, Talib did better against Vincent Jackson last week.

Chandler Jones- Jones had an impressive game against the Bucs last week and he’s being looked to this season to be a force from the edge. Jones will be going against LT Riley Reiff who has moved from RT this season after a solid rookie campaign.

But Reiff has struggled somewhat this summer in his new position as QB Matthew Stafford’s blindside protector. Jones has put on 10-15 pounds of muscle this off-season and has looked stronger this season without sacrificing any of his speed. This will be a big matchup to watch tonight as the Lions will be looking to go deep and often this week.

Aaron Dobson- The Patriots big rookie “X” wide receiver has drawn plenty of accolades this summer for his ability to make tough catches in traffic and will be looked to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally.

But he hasn’t gotten a lot of looks in the first two preseason games, tonight against a deep set of Lions’ corners that aren’t set yet may be an opportunity to shine.

Dobson has the size at 6’3, 200 to be a big target for Brady, especially in the red zone and in his first extended action will be looked at provide the offense with that big, physical wide receiver that they’ve lacked the past few seasons.

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