- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After further review, linebacker Jerod Mayo's performance in the preseason opener warrants further attention.
Things that stood out about Mayo from this perspective:
1. On the second defensive play, he lined up to the right of defensive end Chandler Jones and dropped into coverage to run stride for stride with receiver Lance Moore. Drew Brees looked to that side of the field, but Mayo's coverage contributed to Brees having to go through his progressions, giving time for Jones to push the pocket and ultimately force an incompletion.
2. Tight coverage on running back Pierre Thomas on the Saints' second drive, contributing to an incomplete pass intended for Thomas.
3. Solid tackle on the slippery Darren Sproles on the next play, a third-and-8, in which Sproles was brought down for a 4-yard gain.
4. Tipped pass that leads to Steve Gregory's interception early in the second quarter.
That sampling of plays highlights Mayo's all-around skills.
"I think Jerod has a lot of strengths and he does a lot of things well -- that’s why he’s such a good player," coach Bill Belichick said Friday. "He can run, he can tackle, he can take on blockers, he can chase down plays. He can play good zone pass defense, he can cover guys man-to-man, he has the ability to blitz.
"He’s smart, he calls our defenses, he makes adjustments. He’s a versatile player, but he’s also a player that if you just put in one spot that can do a lot of things well and help your defense in a lot of ways. He gives you good flexibility on your team all the way around just because he does so many things well."
Mayo, who makes it a habit to focus on things he can do better, likely will zero in on the few plays that didn't produce the desired result for him. One of them might have been the Saints' first play, a 5-yard run, when Mayo didn't shed the block of right tackle Zach Strief.
But when looking at Mayo's night (22 snaps), that's a real nit-pick.