By Tom E. Curran
1. Sam Bradford Better Look Bad
Through two preseason games, the No. 1 overall pick has looked like a rookie quarterback ought to as he pulls his little dinghy out of the harbor. Fairly inept. He's 12-for-27 for 81 yards.
Bill Belichick said the Patriots won't specifically game plan for players in the preseason, so we likely won't see any of the Bus Stop Defense or exotic coverages hatched for Bradford as he starts in place of A.J. Feeley.
Still, in the ultimate practice game, the Patriots don't want to get riddled by Bradford, especially after decent efforts defensively against Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. With Tully Banta-Cain returning, Marques Murrell having turned in two decent games in terms of bringing pressure and Derrick Burgess getting more reps as this wears on, the Pats need to continue their trend of pass-rush improvement.
2. Run, Larry, Run!
On Tuesday, Laurence Maroney proclaimed himself "The Stuff." He meant is as a personal compliment. For a guy who too frequently gets stacked up for losses or runs directly into the vertebrae of his blockers, "The Stuff" may not be the image he wants to evoke. Whatever. The kid's been on ice for most of the preseason.
Bill Belichick's made it sound like Maroney's a victim of circumstance and the dreadlocked one has nothing to dread. We'll see. He should get the lion's share of the carries against the Rams (and, if all goes well, he'll get the ram's share of the carries against the Lions).
In Week 1, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran fine against the Saints as the starter. In Week 2, Fred Taylor ran great against the Falcons. Maroney needs to run sanely and not as if he's trying to make something out of nothing on every carry. He pledged during the offseason to improve in this regard. Let's see if he does.
3. Probably Not the Guy . . . Ton
Inside linebacker Gary Guyton will be back on the field this week after missing a couple of games with a hamstring injury. In the time he's been down, the inevitable seems to have occurred. Brandon Spikes has asserted himself as the guy next to Jerod Mayo. Anyone who thought Guyton was long for a starting role the moment the Patriots drafted Spikes is unclear on the concept. Guyton's a speed guy, a coverage guy. Roman Phiferish. Situational.
Spikes? He's an inside linebacker. So it will be interesting to see how Guyton's deployed Thursday night. Does he get first-team reps? Is he used situationally? Does Spikes get some time down to let Guyton get some preseason action under his belt?
4. Does Brady Stay Hot?
Of course he stays hot. The guy is a dreamy son of a . . . I'm sorry . . . In two preseason games, Brady's been smoking. He's 15-for-20 for 152 yards and a touchdown. His two incompletions last week were on a blown-up screen and a 50-yard bomb. The week before, he had miscommunications with Moss and Faulk. He also had an incompletion directed to Algernon Crumpler. The five Brady-led drives resulted in three touchdowns, a field goal and a punt.
The Rams aren't exactly the planet's stingiest defense. But head coach Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the Giants when they put a Super Bowl 42 thrashing on Brady and he knows how to bring a pressure package. So there could be some bodies for him to duck under.
5. Nickeling Under?
Leigh Bodden figures to be back in the lineup this week after missing the first two preseason games with a knee injury. He's a starter at one side. That means either Darius Butler or Devin McCourty is going to be the starter on the other side. Presuming Bodden's back on the field Thursday night from the opening defensive series, will McCourty get the start opposite or will Butler?
For my money (and there ain't a lot of that), Butler has a better build for a nickel corner and a better skill set. Still, it may be a leap to put a rookie out there ahead of a second-year guy at this juncture when both have played very serviceable.
Tags: Tom Brady, Brandon Spikes, Darius Butler, Gary Guyton, Leigh Bodden, Lawrence Maroney