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Third-quarter review: Bad fit for Will Smith?

8/18/2014

Picked-up pieces from third-quarter film review of the Patriots’ 42-35 preseason win over the Eagles:

1. Veteran defensive end Will Smith is used to playing more in a 4-3 defense, and at times looks out of place as a hold-the-point 3-4 end with the Patriots, as he did on the first defensive play of the third quarter when he was pushed back by a double team from Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner. Smith looked like he was on roller skates, and generally was run at with success. Just not sure of the fit with Smith at that spot; outside linebacker in the 3-4 might be better suited to maximize his assets.

2. First offensive line combination in the second half looked like this (left to right): Jordan Devey, Chris Barker, Ryan Wendell, Josh Kline, Cameron Fleming. That group also played on the second series of the half, before Braxston Cave came on at center for Wendell on the third drive.

3. Little things show up on the film with second-year defensive lineman Joe Vellano, such as his hustle when getting out in front of safety Duron Harmon on Harmon’s interception return to help Harmon earn an additional 5 yards at the end of the runback. Vellano might not be the most gifted of the team’s linemen, but his maximum effort at all times warrants respect.

4. No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett talked about wanting to be a bit more decisive with his reads after the preseason opener, and he certainly was. His rollout and 23-yard strike to receiver Josh Boyce was a good example of it, as well as good footwork and overall technique. That was one of Mallett's best throws of the night.

5. There’s so much about quarterback play that is hard to assess without knowing the original play-call, and one of them is how a signal-caller gets the offense into the right play based on the pre-snap read. Mallett appeared to ace that test on running back Roy Finch’s 10-yard touchdown run, initially lining up in the shotgun for more of a passing look before moving up under center (as he did, the receivers to the right all touched their helmets to note the change). Watching that unfolds makes one wonder if Mallett saw something and checked into that running play, or if it was more of a tactic to catch the defense off guard.

6. Textbook technique by receiver Brian Tyms on his 17-yard touchdown catch, leaping up to snare a nicely thrown ball by Mallett with cornerback Curtis Marsh in coverage. Tyms has made a few big plays the first two weeks of the preseason, when playing with Mallett or Jimmy Garoppolo. Tyms hasn’t seen much time with Tom Brady, and if he does this week, that would be the next step in his progression -- to show he can produce the same results against top competition.

7. Rookie right tackle Cameron Fleming has struggled at times in pass protection, whereas his run blocking has caught the eye at other times. On Jonas Gray’s 13-yard run, it was Fleming helping to create a wall with a nice block on defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi.

8. The explosiveness of running back Roy Finch on his 15-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass was notable. Receiver Josh Boyce ran a similar play earlier in the game and the same explosion wasn’t apparent.

9. One downer from Finch: He missed a blitz pickup assignment on Brandon Graham, which led to Ryan Mallett getting sacked from his blindside. The Patriots place a high emphasis on blitz pickup for their backs, and Finch didn’t pass the test.

10. Linebacker Steve Beauharnais showed up with a nice tackle on kickoff coverage to open the half. If he’s going to make it on the roster as a backup, those types of plays in the kicking game are key.

11. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point following Finch’s touchdown, from 33 yards, hit the left upright and went through. Count Gostkowski as one of those who will be happy to see the extra point return to its regular spot this week.

12. Cornerback Daxton Swanson was the player who drew a holding penalty while working as a gunner on the punt coverage team.