Getting to Know the Detroit Lions 2011 Opponents: New England Patriots
By Zac Snyder
With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout. That might be a big step of faith, especially in regards to the preseason games, but I have a hard time operating under any other assumption. I know what happens when one assumes, let’s hope the labor situation doesn’t prove the old saying true. These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions are scheduled to play their third preseason game, also known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, against the New England Patriots in primetime on national television. I was able to send some questions to Jamie Pacheco, the lead writer at Musket Fire, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: Fans in the Detroit area are somewhat familiar with Ryan Mallett from his time at the University of Michigan. What has the chatter been in Patriots circles about the team picking him with a third round pick? Is he really an heir apparent to Brady or a pawn they can develop and deal for a return on their third round investment?
Jamie Pacheco: The talk around town with Patriots fans is that Ryan Mallett is the heir apparent to…Brian Hoyer. The current #2 QB in New England is entering the last year of his contract and, with a strong preseason, could garner some serious interest. If that’s the case, the Pats could slap a tag on him and trade him to a QB-needy team, leaving Mallett the #2 guy. From there, it’s tough to look into the future, but Pats fans are counting on Brady playing for quite a few more years. Therefore, at the present time, Mallett is looking more like future trade bait than the future #1 QB of the Patriots.
ZS: One of the Patriots’ biggest needs seemed to be an outside pass rusher, although that need was not addressed through the draft. How have fans reacted to that and what, if anything, are the popular suggestions for addressing that need?
JP: Overall, Pats fans were scratching their heads when the Patriots did not draft a pass rusher in the first or second rounds. There were plenty available when the Pats made their first three picks, but instead went in a different direction. The free agent market is really the only avenue left to try and add talent at that position. Belichick could just wait and see how Jermaine Cunningham and other players, like Eric Moore, develop, but that’s taking a big risk with a championship-ready team. There’s not much available in the free agent market with most of the impact outside linebackers being tagged by their respective teams, so the chatter is trades. Fans are trying to put together trade scenarios to land a player like the Chiefs’ Tamba Hali or the Raiders’ Kamerion Wimbley. While these trades are highly unlikely, the Patriots do have the ammunition to pull one off with the extra first- and second-round draft picks they picked up during the last draft.
ZS: I’d assume Patriots fans are at the point where it is Super Bowl or bust. Are any fans starting to worry about the threat the Jets pose or are they viewed as simply an annoyance?
JP: The Jets are more than an annoyance in most level-headed opinions. The Jets have probably overtaken the Colts as Patriots fans’ least favorite team, and that’s due in part to their recent success. Of course, Rex Ryan helps that along as well. Any Pats fan that writes the Jets off can’t be taken seriously because the Jets are a solid football team. The AFC East is again a toss up, in my opinion, between the Pats and the Jets.
ZS: The third preseason game has become known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Since the Patriots and Lions will face each other in the third preseason game, what are you most looking forward to seeing?
JP: The Patriot offensive line could have a dramatic new look once the preseason game begin, and I am most looking forward to seeing how they stand up against the Detroit defensive line. The Pats had a hard enough time trying to block Ndamukong Suh, and the addition of Nick Fairley will offer a stiff challenge. The line could have a new starting left tackle in rookie Nate Solder, a new left guard if Logan Mankins is signed away or traded, and possibly a new right guard if someone (maybe rookie Marcus Cannon) beats out Dan Connolly.
ZS: Give us one position battle to watch or the name of someone that will have something to prove.
JP: There are several position battles coming up once training camp starts, but one of the most interesting will be for the starting corner back position opposite Devin McCourty. Leigh Bodden is returning from IR and was given a sizable contract last offseason. Kyle Arrington did a solid but unspectacular job starting most of last season. Darius Butler should have another opportunity to act on his potential, and second-round pick Ras-I Dowling figures to be a factor as well.
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