What to look for: Patriots vs. Lions

What to look for: Patriots vs. Lions
August 26, 2011, 9:35 pm
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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