Yes, New England Patriots fans, preseason game number two is upon us. For your viewing pleasure, tune in to The NFL Network or WCVB / Channel 4 @ 8:00 PM. I'll have the game thread opened up around 6'ish as well.
After preseason game number one against the Ravens, I have a few things I'll be looking for, so here's a breakdown:
Quarterbacks - Matt Cassel did not have a good game. Communication with wide receivers was off, despite a lot of reps in training camp. Hopefully Belichick and the coaching staff worked on that aspect of Cassel's game and he comes out with a little more polish than we witnessed. Matt Gutierrez wasn't much better, but he's backup to the backup; I'm less concerned about him. Kevin O'Connell was a welcomed surprise and I hope to see more of the same. Tom Brady did not make the trip to Tampa Bay due to a sore foot. Which foot it is has not been revealed. Happy place...happy place...ohhhhmmmm. Seriously, relax. Preseason is not the time to push an injury, especially with your star quarterback.
Wide Receivers - After Welker got off the PUP a few weeks back, he commented how it'll take some time to get back in the swing of things, that he was working to get his timing back with the QB's, specifically Brady. Apparently, it didn't take long. Mike Reiss has reported that the triumvirate is looking as sharp as ever. Look for more playing time from Moss, Welker and Gaffney. C.J. Jones is fighting for his job. He did not have a good showing and will need to step up. "The Chad" is another that needs to amp it up a bit. I really hope he succeeds; we could really use the skills he projects to have.
Running Backs - LaMont Jordan was killer against the Ravens. At this point, I really feel like he could own the redzone/goal line RB job. I think Maroney and Morris will see more playing time as well as Faulk. I'd like to see a few successful options to Kevin before a feel better.
Offensive Line - JHR is the guru, but overall the O-line struggled against the Ravens and has been hampered by injuries. Barry Stokes has been IR'd and the boys are getting older. A younger OL is a necessity, IMO but we needed to fix linebacker first. Let's just hope we don't need Kevin O'Connell scrambling skills all around.
Linebackers - An area focused on so heavily, the linebacker corps appear to be shaping up nicely. OLB draftee Shawn Crable is really looking good while ILB Jerod Mayo is turning into a stud and Pierre Woods was an animal against the Ravens. OLBs Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas will see more reps as will ILB Tedy Bruschi. I think if this lineup proves successful, fan favorite ILB Junior Seau will retire. I'd like to see ILB Victor Hobson do well. He's been struggling after moving from OLB for the Jets. Rookie ILB Gary Guyton continues to impress.
Cornerbacks - Hobbs and Bryant continue to be the starters in my mind and rookie Terrence Wheatley has really gotten himself noticed in a field of 10. Why so many? Belichick's looking for something, some secret sauce that'll spell disaster for opposing teams. With that many cornerbacks on the roster, this says to me he thinks this will be a key position for 2008.
Safeties - The Denver Broncos released veteran John Lynch and Belichick promptly snatched him up. Lynch is known for being a super hard hitter and has signed a one year deal with the Patriots. This appears to be a direct response to the loss of Tank Williams, the hybrid safety/linebacker guy who was such a good fit for the nickelback position. I'll be watching John.
Defensive Lineman - Jarvis Green is back and Richard Seymour is feeling pretty good. An interesting note: Belichick had the guys practice switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. A 4-3 is a good overall defense, but is very effective against the run so look for it during an obvious running situation.