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Patriots preseason schedule analysis and some other notes

03.31.10 at 6:34 pm ET
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A few random rain-soaked notes on the preseason schedule, the 3-cone drill and Chad Jackson.

The sight of the 2010 preseason schedule is the first sign we’re approaching the midway point of the offseason. While we’re never 100 percent sure how the Patriots approach the preseason (other than the fact that the starters are going to sit out the preseason finale), we know a few things:

• It wouldn’t be a preseason schedule if the Giants weren’t involved. Sure, this year it’ll be that fourth — and most meaningless — game, but someone in the NFL offices loves setting up this meeting every summer. This will mark the fifth straight time and ninth time in 10 preseasons the Patriots will meet New York.

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Sam Bradford could be at Gillette Stadium with the Rams this preseason. (AP)

• The third preseason game is always the one worth watching, and this year it will bring the Rams to Gillette Stadium. The Rams still have a ways to go before they get back to respectability, but this one should be intriguing for several reasons, not the least of which is that St. Louis figures to have the No. 1 pick. That could bring quarterback Sam Bradford or defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy to Foxboro for the first time in their professional careers.

• Chances are that game is going to be a good one anyway. In previous years, the third preseason game has always been the most noteworthy on the Patriots’ preseason schedule. Last year, it was the third game when Washington’s Albert Haynesworth hit quarterback Tom Brady, injuring his shoulder. In the third game of the 2006 preseason, the Patriots delivered an epic curb-stomping to the Redskins, delivering a 41-0 beatdown and putting the capper on a back-to-back preseason games where they combined to score 71 points. And in 2004, the Panthers — who lost to New England the previous year in Super Bowl XXXVIII — got the Carolinas so geeked up for the third preseason game that area retailers were selling t-shirts billing the game as a “rematch” that would allow the Panthers to get some payback for their Super Bowl loss. (For what it’s worth, Carolina won, 20-17.)

When we found out the Patriots were taking a look at Louisville wide receiver Scott Long, the guys at “Patriots Daily” (I’m proud to consider myself a “PD” alumnus), brought up an excellent point: when it comes to evaluating wide receivers, New England would appear to place a lot of stock — maybe more than most teams — in shuttle/cone drills in their predraft workouts. Lots of the relatively under-the-radar receivers (non first-rounders) they’ve targeted in recent years have all excelled in the agility drills. Julian Edelman had a 6.62 3-cone drill as a collegian. Deion Branch was 6.71, Chad Jackson was 6.74 and Wes Welker was 7.06. Edelman, Branch and Jackson would have been in the top 10 among WRs at this year’s combine, while Welker would have finished just out of the top 10.

This brings us to Long, who finished first among wide receivers in the 3-cone drill (6.45 seconds) at the combine. The 23-year-old is a 6-foot-2, 214-pounder who caught 53 passes for 727 yards and two touchdowns last season, and finished his career at Louisville with 91 catches, 1,286 yards and four TDs. He doesn’t have the pre-draft buzz of Dez Bryant, Golden Tate or Arrelious Benn for several reasons (including a knee injury he suffered as a junior and a bad team around him as a senior), but his stock appears to be rising as the draft draws closer.

Long was asked by Chris Warner if the 3-cone drill was a better indicator of football speed than the 40-yard dash that sounds like it was straight out of the Bill Belichick School of Football Explanation:

“I think that the 3-cone – that, along with the 20-yard shuttle – is a very good determinant of football speed and quickness, especially at the wide receiver position, getting in and out of cuts,” Long replied. “You know, the 40 is great as far as letting people know a range on a guy’s speed vertically, but a lot of times with that 40, it’s a lot about technique: if you can get a great start and hold your drive phase. But you don’t really run that like in football.

“As far as the turns and the things that you make in the shuttles and on those cones, I think that’s really reflective of what you have to do at the receiver position.”

I’m not suggesting that’s the only thing the Patriots look for in a wide receiver, but if New England does call Long’s name on Friday or Saturday of draft weekend — and I’m hearing they’re definitely interested in him — it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, considering their past history with similar receivers.

Speaking of Chad Jackson, the former second-round pick of the Patriots was signed Wednesday by the Bills. The Florida product spent two seasons (2006-07) with New England, but was hobbled by injury (hamstring and groin) in his rookie season. In the 2006 AFC Championship Game against the Colts, he suffered a torn ACL, which limited his production in a Patriots uniform the rest of the way. He was cut before the start of the 2008 season, and had a brief stint with the Broncos.

My take on Jackson was that seemed to have limitless potential, but was always dealing with one nagging injury or another, which hindered his overall development. He was never healthy enough to stay on the field long enough to really find a place in the Patriots offense. To that point, I remember asking him once while he was with the Patriots if he ever had any advice to future rookie receivers in the New England system. His reply? “Don’t get hurt.”

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Arrelious Benn, Chad Jackson, Deion Branch
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