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Friday, August 27, 2010
Revisiting '10 things to watch'

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Prior to each Patriots preseason game, 10 areas to monitor have been presented. In the aftermath of the team's 36-35 loss to the Rams, here is a look at how the 10 areas played out:

1. Banta-Cain, Burgess and the pass rush. When the Patriots rush four players in their 3-4 alignment, the extra rusher most often comes from the outside linebacker spot. That's where Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess line up, and they didn't consistently produce pressure against rookie quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Thaddeus Lewis. This is likely a top area of concern for the coaching staff.

2. Laurence Maroney's place on the depth chart. Maroney did not play, with the work at running back going to Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead. Maroney hasn't played the last two weeks, which could mean different things depending on one's viewpoint. The coaches could want to evaluate Morris and Green-Ellis more, showcase Green-Ellis, or it could be a sign that Maroney has slipped on the depth chart.

Devin McCourty
First-round draft choice Devin McCourty started at cornerback against the Rams and struggled.

3. Run defense gets a good test. Rams running back Steven Jackson carried just five times for 22 yards. Overall, the Rams rushed 41 times for 136 yards (3.3 avg.). It wasn't a dominant performance by the Patriots' run defense, but it wasn't awful, either.

4. Rotation at inside linebacker. Rookie Brandon Spikes started next to Jerod Mayo, with 2009 starter Gary Guyton the third man in. It seems clear at this point that 2009 third-round pick Tyrone McKenzie has been passed on the depth chart by Spikes, as McKenzie didn't enter the game until midway through the fourth quarter.

5. New look of second-unit offensive line. The reserve offensive linemen struggled badly in Atlanta, and they played just nine snaps against the Rams. Rookie Ted Larsen was the center, which is an encouraging sign for his roster hopes, while new acquisition Quinn Ojinnaka worked at right tackle and struggled on one play as the backup quarterback was under pressure.

6. Increased workload for top players and the coaches. Most starters played into the second half, as expected. Quarterback Tom Brady led the play-time chart on offense with 30 snaps. The coaches went through the process of halftime adjustments, with Brady saying Belichick challenged the offense at halftime to dig itself out of the hole it created in an inconsistent first half.

7. Wes Welker's playing time. Welker played the first half, was on the field for 15 snaps and finished with two catches for 41 yards as his recovery took another step forward.

8. Cornerbacks with Leigh Bodden's return. First-round draft choice Devin McCourty started opposite second-year man Darius Butler and both struggled. Bodden played with the second unit, although that is likely to change in the coming weeks.

9. Taylor Price's progress and the receiver depth chart. Price still seems a bit behind, as veteran Sam Aiken was used as the fourth receiver with Julian Edelman missing the game. He played one snap with Brady before playing the final eight offensive snaps of the game when Brian Hoyer was the quarterback.

10. Coverage units on special teams. Often a place to get a better feel for some bubble players on the roster, it was notable that Aiken and linebacker Rob Ninkovich were part of the "Big Four," while rookie safety Sergio Brown showed up on three units and is a sleeper-type player to monitor.

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