Curran: More observations from loss to Lions

Curran: More observations from loss to Lions
August 24, 2013, 10:00 am
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Stuff I noticed on a second viewing of the first half of the Patriots and Lions. You know, the one that didn’t go so good.
 
The Lions were absolutely sold out on first down to stop the run early in the game. The Patriots offensive line didn’t handle the surge well at all, but the added linebackers and safeties sniffing handoffs blew those plays up before they had a chance to even unfold.
 
The reason Kenbrell Thompkins is going to be a better receiver this season than Aaron Dobson is his ability to get off the jam at the line. Thompkins doesn’t stand there like the Roadrunner spinning his legs before taking off either. It’s a juke inside or out and gone. Brandon Lloyd, when faced with a corner in his face, didn’t have the strength to discard (Thompkins is more solidly built) and would launch into a softshoe for about three seconds before releasing. As for Dobson, there’s more torso there for the DBs to get into. And with his higher center of gravity at 6-4ish and slight build, he’s going to get cuffed around. He’ll need to watch some Keyshawn or Michael Irvin - tall guys who weren’t blindingly fast – to get some of the nuance of beating those jams.
 
I don’t know which of the three Patriots fumbles was the most egregious. They were all equally bad. Well-placed contact by the Lions on each one but nothing explosive. Ach Sudfeld’s I get. Safeties in the NFL come faster than they do in the Big Sky or wherever the hell Nevada plays and he’ll learn to get two hands wrapped earlier. But Brandon Bolden had time to tuck the ball and he let it get away from his body. Same with Shane Vereen.
 
Joe Vellano, the undrafted rookie from Maryland getting early reps with Vince Wilfork out, really anchored well on a few plays. At 6-2, 306, he doesn’t have Wilforkian dimensions, but his work was eye-opening.
 
On the 67-yard screen to Reggie Bush, Jerod Mayo diagnosed the play well and – as we pointed out at the time – didn’t arrive under control with a chance to break down and corral Bush. But Adrian Wilson – 3 yards upfield from Mayo – did the exact same thing as Mayo. He should have laid back in a support role but he bit to the sideline as well and was as much to blame as Mayo for the long gain.
 
Rob Ninkovich is, quite possibly, the Patriots most reliable front-seven player. How many games in a row – including Thursday’s – have we all said, “Well, Ninkovich made some nice plays.” He always shows up.
 
If the Patriots are going Big Nickel with Wilson, I’m not loving his mobility right now. Is he quicker, for instance, than Dane Fletcher? He may not play safety or nickel linebacker well enough to supplant lesser-known players.
 
And Steve Gregory tackled well and showed good range against the Lions. He’s having a pretty good preseason.
 
Tom Brady should have been able to see the chaos unfolding between Dobson and Julian Edelman prior to throwing his pick in the second quarter.
 
Jake Ballard and Sebastian Vollmer both got abused by speed rushes at different junctures in the first half. Vollmer had it happen on consecutive plays late in the first half.
 
Thompkins and Michael Hoomanawanui both could have done a better job getting to the sticks on third-down receptions. On the third-down catch Hooman had, Brady had Leon Washington with much less traffic around him on the left hash for what would have been a first down.
 
Fullback James Develin got the ball on the failed fourth-and-1 but his get-off was very tepid and – while the play wasn’t well blocked – Develin’s lack of explosion doomed it as well.