Is it just us, or did New England look sharper than a native Cape Codder’s accent in their 31-14 pasting at Tampa?
According to Coach Bill Belichick, it’s just us. Fine. No one can deny, though, the Patriots did just about everything they wanted while running up a 28-0 lead after two quarters.
Making assumptions with this team always gets us in trouble, but we have to figure that Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork and other starters will get their last licks at Detroit. As they showed for one half vs. the Patriots last Thanksgiving, the Lions have a solid core of young starters and should improve this season.
Some points to ponder heading into the last of the best scrimmage action…
Get Carter: We’ve seen enough of defensive end Andre Carter to know we like him. The new Patriot made himself at home in Tampa’s backfield, at one point actually sitting on an ottoman and asking Buccaneer QB Josh Freeman to get him some herbal tea (we exaggerate for effect).
In fact, we’d rather Carter sit this week as we check out some other defensive linemen who haven’t really shown much. Speaking of whom…
Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s That Albert: Will free agent defensive tackle/asteroid-sized human Albert Haynesworth get to play this weekend? We wouldn’t mind watching him for at least a series.
A Boy Named Suh: Last Thanksgiving, then-rookie defensive lineman Ndomokung Suh tenderized Brady like a flank steak. Will New England’s offensive line travel to Detroit better prepared for the big fella?
Otro Por Ocho? There was once a band called N*Sync. Right now, Brady and receiver Chad Ochocinco are not part of that band. (Insert Brady hair reference here.)
Ochocinco scored an easy TD where the Buccaneer defense left him wide open. Time to see if he can make some noteworthy catches on timing patterns in traffic.
Other receivers to consider…
Tate The Player, Not The Game: With kickoff lines moved up and returns happening only slightly more frequently than lunar eclipses, what role does young receiver Brandon Tate play? His special teams value diminishes while he has yet to prove himself as a regular contributor on offense.
If fellow pro pup Taylor Price has a productive game, consider Tate’s days numbered.
What Can Brown Do For You? Free agent Raider linebacker Ricky Brown should help right away on special teams, but can he play on New England’s 4-3 defense? In 2011 – especially with injuries to other linebackers – Brown might prove useful.
Safety On, Safety Off: What, exactly, should we read into the signing of safety James Ihedigbo? Is he another special teams addition, or will he see time in the defensive backfield? Are the days numbered for safety/off-season gunslinger Brandon Meriweather?
So many questions, most of which won’t get answered by Saturday. And yet, we hope.
Tight Ends Will, Lee, Nil Lee: Intriguing battle between mammoth rookie tight ends Will Yeatman and Lee Smith. Smith, a fifth-rounder, has seemed to lose ground against Yeatman, an undrafted football and lacrosse player out of Maryland. At Tampa, Yeatman had some solid blocks, including one that cleared space for a big BenJarvus Green-Ellis gain.
Look for Smith to make plays at Detroit; if Yeatman doesn’t play Saturday, he may have already made his case for the coaches.
Such A Shane: Second-round pick Shane Vereen suffered a hamstring injury that has prevented him from showing what he can do. We assume Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead (appropriately named after last week’s shot to the noggin) and rookie Stevan Ridley all make the squad. That leaves Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and undrafted rookie Richard Medlin vying for a fifth spot.
(Okay, in reality, probably just Faulk and Morris. But you never know.)
Morris has, as usual, carved out a spot as a special-teamer/fullback, which may or may not have been taken by new signee Garrett Mills. If Vereen’s health fails to improve, Faulk probably stays as another pass-catching option.
No Use Ryan Over Pick Sixes: Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett looked much more like a rookie last week, lofting a water balloon over the middle of the field that got intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Look for a quick recovery Saturday night as Mallett is sure to face increased pressure from Detroit’s D.
Chris Warner can be reached at email@example.com