What to look for: Patriots vs. Lions

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What to look for: Patriots vs. Lions

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran The Patriots have allowed one offensive touchdown in two preseason games and that was against their scrubs. They've scored 88 points. They look really good. One can say "it's only preseason" but what else have we got to go on, hmmmm? Nothing. Saturday night in Detroit, the Patriots will play preseason media darling Detroit. The Lions have gone 2-0 in this preseason themselves. With both teams figuring to give an effort that approximates what we'd see in the regular season, this should be a nice pre-Irene appetizer.What to look for in no particular order. 1. Uncle Albert's Unveiling Two preseason games in and we haven't seen whether Albert Haynesworth poses a bigger threat to the opposition or the team he joined.This has led toSmarmageddon.Haynesworth represents low-hanging fruit to columnists like the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy and radio shriek shows like Tony Massarotti. Shaughnessy burped out a 950-word column - 250 of whichcame in the form of quotes -that concluded Haynesworthin a Patriots uniform represents the greatest threat to New England since the Pilgrims landed nearly 400 years ago.Anyone who doesn't see that is either dense, in denial or on the take. Sports fans who like sports understand that Haynesworth isn't going to be their friend and stop by the house for dinner. They don't have to buy his jersey. They can tell their kids that Haynesworth's been kind of a donkey in the past and they can then guide those innocent children away from building shrines to Haynesworth and direct them to Deion Branch or Jerod Mayo if they want a Patriot to claim as their "favorite."Sportswriters covering teamsunderstand that players with spotty pasts will be employed. Themost measuredway to proceed is to reconcile yourself to that fact and be vigilant for signs of recidivism so that then you can, you know, absolutely eviscerate the player, the team and the owner. Unless you need a column. Now, where were we? Right. Football. Keep an eye peeled to see how Haynesworth is deployed. Is he out there with Vince Wilfork and Shaun Ellis? That's a lot of beef. And what's his conditioning look like? Can hemake it to third down? Will he play at all?Last week in Tampa was all positive for the Patriots' front and the question was how daunting they'd appear with Haynesworth and Ellis. We maysee in Detroit. 2. How's Woodhead's Head?Smushed last week by Tampa's Devin Holland, the Patriots running back staggered off the field with an addled mind. He recovered quickly and, in the locker room after the game, he scoffed at the notion he'd be anything but fine. He returned to practice earlier this week. Despite his quick recovery, Woodhead suffered a concussion last January as well. At his size, he's not built to last. With his style, he'll be his own worst enemy. It wouldn't be a bad idea to sit the little fella down for now. 3. Which Means Vereen?If Woodhead doesn't go, this may mean Shane Vereen can get some extra reps. The rookie second-rounder from Cal just began practicing again this week after suffering a hamstring injury. Stevan Ridley has established himself a bit with the extra reps available. Now it should be Vereen's turn. Look for him later in the game, though, because blitz pickup is Job One for Patriots backs and he probably hasn't shown enough to be trusted yet. 4. Wideout WondermentBetween Taylor Price, Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate, are there enough roster spots at wide receiver? One would have to think Price has established himself during camp. Edelman to a lesser extent. Tate? He's got catching up to do since missing a huge chunk of camp with an injury. With new kickoff rules lessening the need for a guy whose got value in that area, Tate needs to show he's a valuable, reliable player. I'm not sure he has the time to do it. 5. Welcome Back, Carter? The star of stars in last week's preseason game was Jerod Mayo. Close second? Andre Carter. The defensive end was a nuisance off the edge in a way we haven't seen since... ummm... really, in a way we haven't seen. Bill Belichick said some of it was attributable to Tampa's offensive line mistakes. If Carter can back up last week's performance with a similar one this week, it will be hard to dismiss his impact. 6. Last Gasp Before Cutdown DayTeams are going to trim to 80 players from their current 90 on Tuesday. That means the guys in logjam positions - defensive line, secondary, wide receiver - who think they may be in trouble probably are. It's a big night, most likely, for corners Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite, players with ability who just don't seem to ever make plays. The clock's been ticking on both of them. 7. Tight End MaelstromRob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are set. But rookies Will Yeatman and Lee Smith continue to battle for the third tight end spot. Yeatman, an undrafted guy, has the edge on Smith, a fifth-rounder. The Patriots will certainly try to get the guy who loses the battle onto their practice squad. Gronk, meanwhile,hasn't caught a preseason football. Aaron Hernandez has nine receptions. 8. Ocho DramaLotta navel-gazing from Chad Ochocinco last week in Tampa. So much frustration and urgency that you wonder if the guy can keep it to himself and immerse himself in the offense without having to be in everyone's ear about it all the time. It will be interesting to see how often Tom Brady goes to him. Brady doesn't do needy well. 9. Left Tackle QuestionsMatt Light returned to the field this week as well. Does that bounce Nate Solder from the starting spot at left tackle? If so, are the Patriots planning to use a guy they signed to a two-year, 7 million contract as a backup?
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Saban knows he has 'great teacher of the game' in new OC Daboll

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Saban knows he has 'great teacher of the game' in new OC Daboll

After 17 years in the NFL, after five Super Bowl titles, after time spent as a defensive assistant, receivers coach, tight ends coach and offensive coordinator, after working with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and under one Hall of Fame head coach, Brian Daboll is going back to school. 

It makes sense that the new Alabama offensive coordinator chose to make the leap from the pro game to Tuscaloosa. In New England he was the offensive coordinator in waiting, it seemed, but Josh McDaniels still hasn't jumped at a head coaching gig and it's uncertain when he will.

With the Crimson Tide, Daboll will get a raise -- he'll easily double his Patriots salary, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss -- and a chance to call the plays for one of the premier programs in college football. He'll also remain in contention for NFL jobs down the line if he wants to work his way back; 'Bama's last offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, just jumped to the Falcons to replace Kyle Shanahan as their offensive coordinator. 

"We are certainly happy to add a coach the caliber of Brian Daboll to our staff," Nick Saban told RollTide.com. "I have known Brian since he worked for us as a GA at Michigan State and he has a fantastic reputation in the coaching profession. He brings a tremendous work ethic to the job and has a wealth of football knowledge. Brian is a great teacher of the game, and someone who can relate well to our players. We are excited to welcome Brian, his wife Beth and their family to Tuscaloosa."

In the last year alone, Daboll's resume got a nice bump as his teaching ability was highlighted throughout the course of New England's run to another Super Bowl. He helped Martellus Bennett grasp a complicated offensive system to the point where it was Bennett who was the target of Tom Brady's throws twice in overtime of the Super Bowl when the team was trying to punch one into the end zone. Bennett finished the season with 55 catches for 701 yards and seven scores.

Daboll was responsible for getting Matt Lengel up to speed late in the season with Rob Gronkowski out for the year and Bennett dealing with myriad injuries. Lengel, from Eastern Kentucky by way of Northeastern, worked with Daboll one-on-one at times in practice and made appearances in six regular-season games after having spent the majority of his first two pro seasons on the Bengals practice squad.

Daboll even deserves some recognition for the season that fullback James Develin put together, perhaps the best of his career to this point, as Develin met with the tight ends on a daily basis. When Gronkowski went out, Develin needed to be ready to take on more tight end responsibilities, and Daboll ran the crash course. 

At Alabama, Daboll will work with a slightly different population. The players will be younger. They won't have the base of knowledge his pro pupils did. And he'll be working more closely with a new position as he takes on the responsibilities of quarterbacks coach. 

"I am honored to have the chance to return to the college game and work for Coach Saban at Alabama," Daboll said in a statement. "He basically gave me my start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in the late 1990s and has always been a very important influence on my coaching career. It is a tremendous opportunity to work at an institution such as Alabama with its rich tradition and history of sustained success, and I'm very excited to get started."

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Watch Tom Brady's daughter Vivian tear it up on ski slopes

Tom Brady's daughter Vivian is a natural on skis.

The New England Patriots quarterback and apparently proud father posted a comical video of his 4-year-old daughter tearing it up on the ski hill. Vivian took on the bottom section of the run while adhering to the all-important instructions from the Super Cool Ski Instructor from the Comedy Central show, "South Park."

Brady added the audio from the "South Park" ski instructor to the video of his daughter skiing, and included a joke about "french frying" and "pizzaing" at the correct moments. 

"That’s my girl! Pizzaing when she's supposed to pizza, French frying when she's supposed to French fry... NOT having a bad time!!" Brady joked on Instagram.