The Patriots and Texans have finished their joint practices and meet in Houston on Saturday night at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. local time) for the second preseason game of the 2017 Patriots schedule.
The game will be broadcast on CBS with Dan Roche, Christian Fauria and Matt Chatham (sidelines) on the call. It will also be live on NFL Game Pass and on 98.5 the Sports Hub, the Patriots flagship station with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.
After a couple of spirited and tough practices against the Texans this week in West Virginia, the teams meet in a preseason game before doing it for real in Week 3 in Foxboro. Here are some of the things we’ll be watching for.
Brady and the Healthy Starters Making an Appearance: Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots sat 40 of their veteran players as well as some hurt ones. It would be difficult to imagine them sitting again and then having to play two + quarters against the Lions next week in the tune-up for the regular season.
So this will be the first chance we get to see guys like Brandin Cooks and Rex Burkhead on the offense and established veterans like Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and James White will get to strut their stuff with Brady. I still don’t expect to see Rob Gronkowski this week.
On the defense, that means seeing Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler at corner this week with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty at safety. None of whom played a week ago. David Harris should see some action at middle linebacker tonight as well.
The Offensive Line Will Have Their Hands Full: The Patriots know full well how tough the Texans front seven on defense is. They gave them all they could handle in the divisional playoff game in Foxborough last year. The joint practices were much more of the same. On Tuesday, the Texans defense carried the day, leading Brady to get heated on the sidelines. They were better on Wednesday but look for Houston to get after whoever is under center.
Nate Solder, Tony Garcia, and LaAdrian Waddle are banged up and won’t play. That leaves Cameron Fleming protecting Brady’s blind side over left tackle. The team kept a running back in, right behind the left tackle to help out this week. When Brady is in, expect to see James White or Burkhead doing much the same thing.
Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt, Jadevon Clowney et.al had a good week going against the Patriots offensive line during the joint practices. They’ll be looking to set the tone early by doing the same. The offensive line will have to give Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo the time to find the receivers. With that in mind, our next key to watch…
Patriots Wide Receivers Keeping the Pressure On: During training camp thus far this summer, the Patriots wide receivers have looked like a pretty dominant group. The versatility and depth make this unit fun to watch. This week will be our first chance to see them on the field together. Brady already has great chemistry with the likes of Edelman, Hogan and Danny Amendola. He’s approaching that (in practice) with Cooks who has been explosive this summer.
While Houston’s front seven is a dominant type of group, the secondary has some question marks. At corner, they lost A.J. Boyue who effectively shut down half of the field in the divisional playoff game in January. And at safety is the Texans position of concern. They’re still searching for answers there besides Andre Hal who wasn’t terrific a year ago. If there is a chance to stretch the field tonight, look for Brady to do so with either Cooks or Hogan.
Once the starters give way, guys like Devin Lucien, Austin Carr and TE Jacob Hollister will be looking to continue their hot summers. All three would be, in a different time frame, in a great position to make the roster. With the depth in place, all three are having to make strides to make the 53-man cut down in two weeks.
Patriots Edge Pressure, Where Does It Come From: We’ve mentioned the Texans front seven which is excellent and now the flip side. With the injuries to the two rookie draft picks, the Patriots are thin on the edge. Dont’a Hightower won’t play, so that leaves the team even thinner. Where does the edge pressure come from?
This will probably be a question we’ll ask every week, but for now, veteran Trey Flowers who led the team down the stretch a year ago will be the guy who is expected to provide the most pressure. Look for the team to employ LBs Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin in more of a rush mode beginning this week. Rookie Harvey Langi, who is having a very solid camp will no doubt be tasked to do more of the same.
One area where the team can help the edge players is to push the pocket from the inside where the Texans QBs, Tom Savage and DeShaun Watson can’t step up. That will fall to guys like Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, the rookie UDFA who is stepping up his game.
Bottom of the Roster Players Have a Great Chance to Shine: With the Patriots 90-man roster as deep as we’ve seen it in many years, the players who round out the Patriots roster will have a chance to strut their stuff against a playoff team from 2016 in the Texans. And that includes a couple of players who didn’t have their best moments against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
Cyrus Jones struggled mightily on defense, and he’s clearly over-thinking things back there. That is something that has to be remedied. In essence, he’s the #5 corner, so he’s not expected to play much on defense. But he can’t let it affect his play in the return game. And he was lackluster there a week ago, tonight is a prime opportunity to erase those bad feelings. If he fails there, the Patriots have options. Both Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis are waiting in the wings if called. Time to step it up.
Elandon Roberts and Jordan Richards both struggled a week ago, Roberts was reaching and filled the wrong gaps and Richards’ deficiencies in speed were put on display as well as taking a very poor angle on a 79-yard touchdown run. Both need to step up their game.
As we mentioned above, the young receivers, Lucien, Carr, and Jacob Hollister have another prime opportunity to impress the coaches. Adam Butler and Conor McDermott on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively are players to watch tonight.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2017 Patriots Preseason 2017 Patriots Season 2017 Patriots Training Camp 53 Man Roster Projection Austin Carr Bill Belichick Brandin Cooks Chris Hogan Cyrus Jones Danny Amendola Devin Lucien Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Elandon Roberts Houston Texans Jacob Hollister James White Jimmy Garoppolo Jordan Richards Julian Edelman Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Stephon Gilmore Tom Brady Trey Flowers