ReFo: NE @ DET, Preseason Wk 3

Khaled Elsayed looks at a poor performance by the Patriots' offensive line, a big showing from the Lions' defensive line and Detroit's best running back.

| 4 years ago

Khaled Elsayed looks at a poor performance by the Patriots' offensive line, a big showing from the Lions' defensive line and Detroit's best running back.

ReFo: NE @ DET, Preseason Wk 3

You can never read too much into the scorelines in preseason, but you can take a lot from the performances. With that in mind how can you not be impressed by the Detroit Lions defense?

Going up against the New England Patriots’ offensive starters, they manhandled their peers, especially up front in the trenches. Of course the flip-side is that their offensive starters failed to capitalize on excellent field position, going three-and-out on six occasions in the first half.

That, too, should slow down the breathing of Pats fans worried about how their team gave up so many points. Of course most occurred in the second half, and we’ll be looking at the key performances there shortly.

New England– Three Performances of Note

Safety Struggles

A lot of the talk immediately after the game was of the poor performance of Adrian Wilson (-1.4). And while it’s true he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on his 40 snaps, he wasn’t the worst offender.

That distinction belongs to third-round pick Duron Harmon (-5.1) who put forward the kind of display from a mid-round rookie that ensures most of the action he sees should be on special teams. He achieved the lowest grade of any safety in a game through preseason, with his tackling particularly exasperating. Four times he missed a tackle and only twice did he actually bring the ballcarrier down.

The Best of a Bad Bunch

While a number of guys on defense didn’t let their team down, Patriots players who stood out were few and far between. Naturally, though, Tom Brady (+2.3) didn’t let the team down as he completed 16-of-21 aimed passes, including a healthy four over 10 yards in the air. His highlight-reel throws in this game came deep, with go routes hit with 13:43 to go in Q1, and with 8:43 and 2:34 to go in the second. He wasn’t helped with the latter being dropped, but it was a reminder that he remains in tip-top form.

Right Side lets the Team Down

Whether it was Will Svitek (-2.9) at guard or Sebastian Vollmer (-4.2) at tackle, the right side of the Patriots’ line had a horrid outing. It didn’t get much better when Dan Connolly (-2.2) came in for 11 snaps as the team failed to get anything going. While the primary issue was in the run game (19 yards on 12 carries on the right side), the pass protection wasn’t anything to write home about.

Vollmer, one of the league’s top right tackles, was particularly poor. Twice he was beaten for sacks and two more times he gave up pressure. Can we put this one down to preseason, or is something developing?

Detroit – Three Performances of Note

Pick your poison

Before the game, I was intrigued to see how Nick Fairley would deal with Logan Mankins. It proved a relatively even affair, with explosions occurring elsewhere on the line.

As you may have guessed from how the right side of the Patriots’ offensive line performed, the left side of the Lions’ defensive line was extremely impressive. The game’s top grade went to Ndamukong Suh (+4.3) and it wasn’t for his hit and hurry. In a rarity for him it was nearly all down to his run defense, where he finished with four defensive stops as well as drawing a holding call when he had Vollmer beat.

While he dominated there, Jason Jones (+3.2) showed a lot of people he could hack it at defensive end. Of course he’ll have to do it in the regular season, but after a disastrous year in Tennessee at right defensive end in 2011, maybe a switch to the left side will bring the best out of him. If he can keep turning 16 pass rushes into two sacks and a hurry, the answer to that question will be a firm ‘yes’.

No Calvin, No Clue?

I may sound like I’m repeating myself, but it is only preseason. You’d still like to see more out of Matthew Stafford (-3.6) who was the lowest-graded player on the Lions’ game-day roster. Why? Well, once again it was a collection of errant throws, and while the 12 completions for 166 yards may look impressive, only 17 of those yards came in the air, with the rest after the catch.

In fact, though he attempted seven balls over 10 yards in the air, he didn’t complete any of them. Getting Johnson back will help, and he was working without Ryan Broyles, but it was far from convincing.

The Real Bell-Cow?

As much fanfare as the arrival of Reggie Bush (-0.7) has received, I remain unconvinced that he’s the best back on the roster. Don’t get me wrong, he can do some things out in space, but turning six rushing attempts into 1 yard isn’t scaring anybody.

Now Joique Bell (+4.7), on the other hand, continues to show he has something to him in every phase of the game. While Bush is so dangerous in space, Bell looks more likely to make something happen between the tackles. He averaged 10.4 yards on his five carries, with 36 of his 52 yards coming after contact, and he forced four missed tackles.

You might say he doesn’t offer much as a receiver, but if you saw him last year (+7.8 receiving grade) and watched him break three more tackles after catching the ball, you’d surely think differently.

Game Notes

Nick Fairley was flagged for two penalties. Anyone hoping for a reduction after his 2012 defensive-lineman-leading 12, may be sorely disappointed.

Aaron Dobson led the Pats with 36 routes run. After him was Kenbrell Thompkins (30) with Julian Edelman and Josh Boyce (26) tied for third. Thompkins’ 3.87 Yards Per Route Run was the highest figure of all.

Jake Scott may be on the roster bubble but his work in the second half (on 24 snaps) saw him earn a +5.1 grade. The Lions may opt to go with youth and versatility, so plenty of linemen-hungry teams may be keeping an eye on him.

Game Ball

Sharing is akin to cowardice. So while I want to recognize Jason Jones, he’ll have to settle for playing second fiddle to Ndamukong Suh.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • Alex

    I think Bell is clearly the better back carrying the ball. But Bush’s explosiveness as a receiver really takes the team’s offense to a new level. Bush’s YPCatch average haven’t been all that high but in this offense he will thrive. They really need someone like him after losing Best.