We’ve already covered the Patriots’ sloppy offensive performance in Thursday’s 40-9 exhibition loss to the Lions, and how the starting defense really wasn’t that bad given how many times it was put in bad field position.
Now let’s take a look at some leftover thoughts after rewatching the game and studying the statistics:
Mallett not showing much
This was a fairly crucial preseason for third-year quarterback Ryan Mallett, and not to be too harsh, but let’s just say he’s done little to prove to the other 31 NFL general managers that he’s worth trading a draft pick for and capable of being a good starter.
His accuracy was once again erratic against the Lions — he finished 11 of 22, but at one point was just 6 for 16 and bounced a couple of throws — and the offense had little rhythm under his direction until tacking on a touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter. The Patriots managed just four possessions in the second half, and two resulted in negative yardage and quick punts.
In three exhibition games, he has completed just 32 of 60 passes (53.3 percent) for two touchdowns, no interceptions, and an 80.6 passer rating, and his yards per attempt is a measly 5.5, compared with 8.1 for Tom Brady.
Mallett doesn’t have the benefit of working with the starting offense, but he’s also playing against many defenders who won’t be on NFL rosters this year.
Mallett now has one more chance, the preseason finale on Thursday night, to showcase his abilities to the rest of the league.
Which leads us to a quick note about Tim Tebow, who didn’t play on Thursday. Many fans and media take it as a sure sign that he is not long for the Patriots. And that may be so.
But with Brady getting the entire first half, and the Patriots getting just four possessions in the second half (and looking terrible in the process), it’s possible that Bill Belichick wanted Mallett to get the work and simply didn’t have enough time to get Tebow any reps.
We should see plenty of Tebow Time against the Giants on Thursday at Gillette. It might be the last.
Offensive line struggles
The fumbles shouldn’t concern you — that happens from time to time. But the offensive line struggles should.
The Lions have one of the league’s best defensive lines, with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and first-round pick Ziggy Ansah, and sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other team. But Sebastian Vollmer’s struggles with defensive end Jason Jones were troubling — Jones had two sacks — and overall the Patriots couldn’t handle the speed of the Lions’ “wide 9” alignment.
The Lions’ starting defense had two sacks, five quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, and limited the Patriots to 32 yards on 18 rushes (1.8-yard average). The Patriots won’t face many better defensive fronts than the Lions’, but they kind of got pushed around and bullied on Thursday night.
Reggie Bush’s run
A couple of observations on the 67-yard catch-and-run Bush had on the Lions’ opening drive:
1. The play turned into a big gain because Jerod Mayo and Adrian Wilson weren’t disciplined and overpursued Bush near the sideline. They both overran the play big time, Bush pulled out one of his patented cutback moves, and he was off to the races.
Wilson, who turns 34 in October and signed a three-year deal this spring after spending his first 12 seasons with Arizona, has been a step slow at times this preseason and doesn’t seem like a lock for the roster that he once was presumed to be.
2. The play didn’t end in the end zone because of incredible hustle by cornerback Kyle Arrington, who began the play in coverage at the top of the television screen and tackled Bush at the 13 at the bottom of the screen. The Patriots then held the Lions to a short field goal.
Arrington, signed to a four-year deal this offseason, may keep the starting job opposite Aqib Talib even when Alfonzo Dennard returns from injury.
The Patriots didn’t have Danny Amendola because of injury, so the young kids got plenty of opportunities.
Second-round pick Aaron Dobson led the team with 55 of 77 snaps played, followed by Julian Edelman (44), undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (43), and fourth-round pick Josh Boyce (39).
Thompkins has clearly been the star of camp, and shined on Thursday by catching 8 of 12 targets for 116 yards. He has a good grasp of finding open space on option routes, and seems to have a lock on the No. 2 spot opposite Amendola.
Dobson, meanwhile, showed an inability to fight through traffic in the 5-yard contact zone off the line of scrimmage, and it resulted in a Brady interception and a missed opportunity along the goal line at the end of the game. Dobson did catch 4 of 8 passes for 50 yards, but he has to work on his strength.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin