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What to watch for against Lions

08.22.13 at 3:48 pm ET

What we’re looking for Thursday night in Detroit:

‘€¢ First and foremost, we know everything revolves around the quarterback, and if history holds true, he’ll play roughly 35 snaps Thursday night. In Tom Brady‘s last four preseasons, he’s played at least one half in the third game, with his longest stretch coming in 2010 when he was lifted with 12:30 in the fourth quarter for Brian Hoyer. (His shortest stretch came in 2009 when he left at halftime after Albert Haynesworth fell on his shoulder.) It’s also important to note that Brady is on pace for one of the finest preseason stat lines of his career. We’ll see if he can keep up the pace against a Lions defense that had its way with them in a 2011 preseason contest.

‘€¢ As for the rest of the starters, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday there’s an inherent value in having your starters play the first half, come into the locker room at halftime and get a bit of a blow, and then return to the field for the second half. Belichick intimated that it’s a good way to be prepared for regular-season football.

‘€œI think there’€™s still a lot to be said for playing a game prior to the start of the regular season where the players play, come in at halftime, go back out and play again, if that’€™s possible,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI don’€™t think it’€™s like an absolute must, but I think it’€™s a good experience if they can experience it. We’€™ll see how it goes.’€

‘€¢ There are a handful of guys who aren’t expected to play tonight, including cornerback Ras-I Dowling, defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham and wide receiver Danny Amendola. It will be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the reps in Amendola’s place. From what we’ve seen to this point in the summer, it’s likely that Julian Edelman will be in the slot, but the Patriots will likely do some shuffling deep into the second half. In addition, it’€™s worth noting that defensive back Devin McCourty switched his jersey from a red non-contact jersey to the standard blue this week, which could be a sign he’€™ll be ready to go for this first time this offseason come Thursday night.

‘€¢ In addition to Edelman, it will be interesting to see how the young receivers continue their evolutionary process with Brady. It appears right now that Kenbrell Thompkins has surpassed Aaron Dobson in the race for the No. 2 receiver spot, but the team continues to force-feed Dobson (through two preseason games, he leads the team in targets with 13), and that should be the case again against the Lions.

‘€¢ Energy. The Patriots were blown off the ball the last time they visited the Lions for the third preseason game of the year — back in 2011 — as Detroit really jumped on them early and took command right out of the gate. The Lions were clearly amped for the game, and it showed. (It was funny to hear Brady pass along the news this week that Belichick was reminding them about the loss in the 2011 preseason, as roughly 1/4 of the guys on the 90-man roster were around for that game.) One of New England’s clear points of emphasis last week against the Bucs was a fast start on both sides of the ball, and it was able to accomplish that early. No surprise to hear music at practice this week, as the Patriots were trying to anticipate the energy they’ll find at Ford Field.

‘€¢ In that same vein, it’ll be a good test for the New England offensive line, which will have the difficult task of trying to contain Ndamukong Suh. In that 2011 preseason game, Suh and a high-energy defense set the tone early. Despite the fact that Brady ended up playing 37 snaps, he was sacked twice, fumbled once and was hit seven times. Rough night at the office for No. 12.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins



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