Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Saints and offers some of his third-quarter observations:
1. The 52-yard kickoff return by Patriots rookie Devin McCourty was aided by a number of good blocks. Rob Ninkovich, Ryan Wendell, Sergio Brown, and Taylor Price all cleared the way for McCourty, who showed breakaway speed when he left Saints defensive back Usama Young in the dust before plowing over kicker Garrett Hartley.
2. Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez continued to line up as a wide receiver in some situations. On one play early in the quarter, he went in motion from outside the numbers to the slot, beating Saints safety Pierson Prioleau on a mid-range crossing pattern for a 21-yard gain. QB Brian Hoyer also showed poise on the play, feeling pressure from Saints DT Anthony Hargrove (who beat LG Ted Larsen outside) before stepping up to deliver an accurate pass.
3. After RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis saw the most playing time in the first half, veteran RB Laurence Maroney carried the load to begin the third quarter. Maroney continues to be an upright runner, still not committing to a spot and lowering his shoulder on a consistent basis. On the goal-line, however, Maroney was not helped by poor point-of-attack blocks by FB Thomas Williams and TE Aaron Hernandez.
4. On the 97-yard punt return by the Saints’ Larry Beavers, poor tackling appeared to be the biggest culprit. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and WR Darnell Jenkins both had clean shots at Beavers but missed. CB Terrence Wheatley, who was covering the near side of the field for the Patriots, found himself out of his lane, even as far as the opposite numbers. When he tried to cut back, a block almost knocked him off his feet, allowing Beavers the open field to eventually score.
5. Communication on the offensive line’s second unit appeared to be a problem on a third-down play. RG Rich Ohrnberger was left without a man to block, while RT Thomas Welch faced two rushers, the left end and outside linebacker. QB Brian Hoyer had little choice but to duck and take the sack to end the drive.
6. On the 51-yard reception by Saints WR Adrian Arrington, tackling and communication were problems. CB Jonathan Wilhite was in a short zone, and released Arrington to the middle of the field. However, safeties James Sanders and Brandon McGowan were at least 10 yards deeper, giving Arrington plenty of room to make the catch. Wilhite and Sanders then both were unable to wrap up Arrington to make the stop.
7. On the strip-sack of Patriots QB Zac Robinson, there was a breakdown in blocking by LG Eric Ghiaciuc and RT Thomas Welch, who allowed LE Junior Galette to cause the fumble. However, the play was called back on a penalty by DT Anthony Hargrove against RG Rich Ohrnberger, who was the only Patriots offensive lineman not to allow pressure on the play.
Check out all of Rodak's breakdowns for the Patriots-Saints game: