For the first time since their humiliating loss against the Ravens, the Patriots will take the field and play a real football game. Sure, it's the pre-season and this game vs. the Saints is about 0.0000000000894% as meaningful as that playoff game last January, but it's a football game nonetheless. It means a new season is upon us and we're a mere month away from from the opener against Cincy.
I won't belabor this "preview" too much as the starters will likely play a quarter at the most, but there are some things I'm looking forward to watching.
#1 - When the Pats played the Saints last season, their defense backs were lit up like Christmas trees. Can Bodden, Butler, McCourty, Merriweather, and Chung handle Drew Brees and his slew of offensive weapons? The secondary is supposedly much improved this season. There's nothing like being thrown into the fire right out of the gate to see if that hype is legit or not.
#2 - The 2009 Patriots were notorious for their red zone failures. I can't remember a Patriots kicker getting as much action as Stephen Gostkowski did last season. With a wider variety of weapons, most notably rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, will Tom Brady be more effective at making connections in the end zone?
#3 - The D-line is banged up badly. The O-line is missing Mankins. Are these thin lines going to be able to hold their own, or will the Patriots get steamrolled by the Saints?
#4 - The Florida twosome, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes are going to be relied on heavily this season. How will they fair against real NFL competition?
#5 - Welker may be back, but is he BACK? The man was quick, shifty, and one of a kind during his past three seasons with the Patriots. If Welker plays, which he might not, will he be the player he's always been or a shell of his former self?