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slides: What to Watch For: Patriots vs Lions Preseason Game 3

Friday, August 25, 2017


Rob Gronkowski

The New England Patriots are set to play their third game of the preseason in Detroit against the Lions on Friday night. 

The two teams were supposed to hold a joint walkthrough, but it was canceled. No reason was given. 

"You’re preparing at different levels. You want to play great, and you’ve got to put in everything you can mentally and physically, again, but I think there’s a little bit of divided attention based on short-term goals, long-term goals and whatever is asked of us on a particular day," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Wednesday. 

"Well, we're really on a couple of short weeks here. We had a long week between the Thursday and Saturday game, between games one and two and now its Saturday to Friday, Friday to Thursday and then Thursday to Thursday, which is kind of a normal week but it’s really not because it won’t be until Sunday that all of the cuts are made. It won’t be until Sunday that we get our practice squad set, things like that," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in his press conference on Wednesday. 

Kick off against the Lions is set for 7 p.m. 

What to Watch For

Preseason game three will feature extended play time for the starters, meaning a longer look at guys like Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, and others. 

The game will also feature the first appearances for players such as linebacker Dont'a Hightower and running back Mike Gillislee. 

See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below


Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots vs Lions Preseason Game 3

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Mike Gillislee

Running back Mike Gillislee returned to practice this week after being sidelined by a hamstring injury for the first half of training camp. 

Earlier this week, he told the media that he was "100% read to go." 

Look for Gillislee to make his first appearance in the preseason against the Lions. 

Fellow running back Rex Burkhead missed two straight days of practice and is not expected to play, meaning Gillislee and the other running backs will have ample opportunity to show what they can do. 

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Dont'a Hightower

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower returned from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list earlier this week. 

During practice, he was seen doing drills with the defensive line, as opposed to the linebackers. 

It is unclear if Hightower will see any action on Friday night, but if he does, look for him to get reps on the defensive line at one of the end positions. 

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Cameron Fleming

Left tackle Nate Solder returned to practice this week, but did not make the trip to Detroit. That means Cameron Fleming will be tagged with the responsibility of protecting Brady's blindside. 

Fleming started in place of Solder in last Saturday's preseason game against Houston where he was overpowered at times by Houston's Ufomba Kamalu. 

Fleming was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Patriots. 

LaAdrian Waddle serves as a back up to Fleming. 

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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski surprised just about everyone last week when he made his first preseason appearance since 2012.

Gronkowski only played 15 snaps and was not targeted in the game, but was effective as a run blocker.

“I just felt the benefit when I was out there; the speed of the game, live game speed. It’s been a while for me. I felt the benefit of getting in sync blocking-wise, the cadence and everything like that. I’m taking all positives out of it, Gronkowski told the media Wednesday, prior to the team leaving for Detroit. 

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Offensive Rhythm

The third preseason game is where the starters play the most, usually a half and sometimes into the third quarter. 

Last week the Patriots offense found the end zone on their second and final series when Brady found Burkhead for a 22-yard touchdown. 

This week, with the offense getting extended time, look for them to get into a better rhythm, especially with the new players like Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, and Gillislee. 

"Those snaps that you’re taking with new players are really important. It was nice to get Rex a touchdown pass [in Houston], and just for him to feel what it’s like for all us to look at another guy’s eyes in the huddle during the course of a game and saying, ‘Look, this is where we’re at. This is football. This is exactly what we’re going to be doing when the season kicks off on Thursday night," said Tom Brady on Wednesday. 


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