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Friday, August 20, 2010
Results of 10 things to watch

By Mike Reiss

Prior to the New England Patriots' 28-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in preseason action, a list of 10 things to monitor was produced.

This column revisits what happened in those 10 areas.

1. Wes Welker's participation. It was the story of the night. The remarkable receiver was on the field for six snaps and had footballs thrown in his direction on his first three plays. It sure seemed like Tom Brady was trying to get him back in the groove quickly. Welker finished with two catches for 20 yards and felt good about absorbing contact for the first time.

2. Ron Brace at left defensive end. There were signs of life from the 2009 second-round draft choice, who was the top reserve behind Gerard Warren. Brace had three tackles, a hurry, and a forced fumble.

3. Tom Brady, offensive cohesion and the long ball. Given his competitive nature, one can safely assume that Brady will be hard on himself for under-throwing Randy Moss on one long-bomb attempt. It was the second of his two incomplete passes. In terms of offensive cohesion, the linemen operated nicely in a noisy road environment.

4. Fred Taylor and the running game. Assertive and impressive. Last week, running backs coach Ivan Fears said that Taylor still had it at age 34. Then Taylor went out and proved it (11 carries, 54 yards). The only negative was a handful of running plays that were stopped for negative yardage.

5. Bill Belichick's roster management. The Patriots had 66 players dressed, which is light for this time of year. The majority of first-string players on offense and defense played three series apiece.

6. Devin McCourty's follow-up performance. The first-round draft choice was once again solid as the starting left cornerback, registering a pass breakup on third down and looking solid in coverage. When starting right cornerback Leigh Bodden returns from injury, it will be a spirited battle between McCourty and Darius Butler for the top job.

7. Reserves making an impression on the offensive line. This unit seemed to have its struggles in pass-blocking situations. This figures to be an area in which the team looks closely for available players when rosters are trimmed.

8. Derrick Burgess, outside linebackers and the pass rush. Burgess didn't show up on the stat sheet and the Patriots didn't get much heat on Falcons quarterbacks. They blitzed about half the time.

9. Tyrone McKenzie's time to shine. The second-year inside linebacker saw extended playing time, although he entered the game after seven-year veteran Eric Alexander, which could be a troubling sign for his roster status. He finished with three tackles and a fumble recovery.

10. Zoltan Mesko's punting. It was a solid night for the fifth-round draft choice as the Falcons had one return for minus-7 yards. Mesko finished with a 42.8 average, a 44.5 net and two punts inside the 20. The Patriots will take that every time.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.