Before the Patriots took the field on Ford Field to play the Detroit Lions and formally receive their whoopin’, I passed along five items that I would be watching throughout the game. There wasn’t much answered and it seems there are more questions at this point heading into the Giants preseason finale on Thursday.
Let’s review what I was looking for and how it played out.
1. The debut of Prince Albert? This was answered early in the day Saturday when it was learned that Haynesworth didn’t make the trip. It seems less likely that we will see Haynesworth until the regular season opener in Miami. Why risk putting him out there at this point?
2. Chad Ochocinco’s comfort level. Ochocinco didn’t look any more comfortable in the offense than he did the previous week. He was targeted four times and came away with no catches. On one occasion when he was the intended target, Tom Brady was intercepted, and on another, the ball bounced right out of his hands. You can’t tell by watching the film if Chad didn’t make the proper route adjustment based on the coverage or if Brady just made a bad throw. It appeared on the TV copy of the game that the ball was thrown where Chad would have been if he ran a post, but without knowing the Pats’ adjustments and calls, one can’t say with any certainty.
3. Taylor Price-Julien Edelman-Brandon Tate competition. Price saw some work with the first unit and Edelman was able to make some things happen in the return game. Tate looks like the odd man out. If the Patriots choose to carry seven receivers he could stick, but I don’t think that it a luxury they can afford. TE Aaron Hernandez is just as much a receiver as he is a tight end, maybe even more so, making that extra WR spot a luxury more than a necessity. Tate also didn’t show much returning kicks in the first half, averaging 13.5 yards per return.
4. Will Yeatman vs. Lee Smith. Yeatman saw work with the first unit while Smith came in later on in the second half. I think at this point that Yeatman has beaten out Smith and will make the team if the Pats decide to keep three tight ends, which I think they will. Smith is a definite candidate for the practice squad if he makes it through waivers, which I don’t think is likely to happen.
5. Special teams. Stephen Gostkowski handled all kicking duties, looking solid with field goals and seeing his first kickoff action of the preseason. That means that it’s the end of the road for Chris Koepplin, who had previously handled kickoff duties in the preseason. Matthew Slater looked solid again in return coverage, and Darius Butler had a few opportunities to return kicks. That flexibility could save his spot on the team. Julien Edelmna, as I mentioned earlier, looked solid once again as a returner. It will be interesting to see how Belichick views special-teams-specific players with the new kickoff rules in place. Whichever way he leans could save some players’ roster spots or doom those who would otherwise have made the team.