During the preseason, it’s not a matter of how many games you win, it’s a matter of how your starters perform against the opposing team’s starters.
For the New England Patriots, their starters as a whole did not perform so well against the New Orleans Saints in their preseason debut, but the same could be said about the Saints.
As the Patriots gear up to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football for their second preseason game, here are five things to watch for.
1. New England’s Offensive Line
If New England’s offensive line plays like they did against New Orleans, then they’re going to struggle to score points in 2012.
Against the Saints, Tom Brady was constantly under pressure and was always on the move as he was sacked once which resulted in a lost fumble. As a unit, the offensive line did not perform well but more specifically left tackle Nate Solder look lost. Defensive end Will Smith beat Solder over and over again—and the sad thing is, Smith used the same move each and every time but Solder could not figure it out.
The Patriots starting offensive unit failed to put up a single point against New Orleans and will have to improve tremendously in order to gain some confidence moving forward.
2. Logan Mankins Could Return
To continue on discussing New England’s offensive line, one player that should have a huge impact on this group is left guard Logan Mankins.
There has been no word on whether or not Mankins will even play, as he returned to practice this week after undergoing ACL surgery back in February.
There’s no doubt that Mankins is the anchor to New England’s offensive line and he should have an immediate impact if he does play—that is assuming that his knee is 100 percent healthy.
3. Tom Brady’s Playing Time
I really don’t see Tom Brady playing a whole lot against Philadelphia, as he sat out the team’s 11-on-11 drills Friday afternoon as he was practicing with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Brady’s playing time will definitely be limited, so we’ll have a small sample size to evaluate his performance thus far in the preseason.
4. Rookie Running Back Brandon Bolden’s Performance
Rookie running back Brandon Bolden is one of many players on the roster bubble and it’s too hard to tell if Bolden would make the 53-man roster if the cut-downs were today.
Bolden got his share of carries against the Saints, but he didn’t really make much out of it. Bolden ran for just 23 yards on eight carries for an average of 2.9 yards per-carry.
If Bolden wants any chance of staying in New England’s already crowded backfield, then he’s going to have to have some standout moments that will stick in the coaching staff’s heads.
5. Chandler Jones Progression
So far, so good for rookie Chandler Jones and the New England Patriots.
In his preseason debut, Jones had five quarterback pressures in 14 dropbacks which is pretty impressive considering he’s only 22-years-old and was playing against a veteran offensive team in the New Orleans Saints.
Jones will have his hands full Monday night as he’ll have to contain quarterback Michael Vick—who’s one of the most elusive players in the NFL today. He’s definitely a much different passer than Drew Brees, which is a good thing so Jones could get a completely different look in just a matter of two weeks.