By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It was, as always, an eventful week for the New England Patriots.
Outside of the tomfoolery taking place between Tom Brady and Mike Vrabel, the Patriots and Titans got some important work accomplished on the practice field this week in Nashville. So much so that the preseason game itself can come to be seen as an afterthought of sorts.
That probably shouldn’t be the case, though, as there’s undeniably something different about suiting up under the bright stadium lights as opposed to working on a practice field — especially when it comes to young players taking their first steps in the NFL.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to see young players as a recurring theme in this week’s edition of What To Watch For.
Who’s Going To Catch The Ball?
Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas have not participated all summer. N’Keal Harry tweaked a hammy in Detroit, and tight end Matt LaCosse injured his ankle. This week, Phillip Dorsett hurt a finger, and Maurice Harris got banged up as well.
Suffice it to say, the depth chart is getting a bit thin.
The injuries — which, for the most part, seem minor at this point in time — should open the door for some players to step up. All eyes will obviously remain on Jakobi Meyers, who’s been the star of camp. But expect a heavy dosage of passes thrown to the likes of Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, and Gunner Olszewski, who may be the most fascinating story from camp.
You’ll no doubt hear Olszewski’s background discussed during the broadcast, as he’s transitioning from defensive back to receiver as a rookie out of Bemidji State. He remains a long shot to actually make the final roster (right?), but his work this summer is nevertheless standing out. He made one catch last week, but expect some more action this time around.
Follow-Up For Stidham
Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham was outstanding in his preseason debut against the Lions. That hardly matters now, though, as the work will only get increasingly difficult as the preseason continues.
Aside from the aforementioned receiver issues, the Patriots’ offense should be up for a tougher task against a Titans defense that boasts one of the better secondaries in the NFL. Stidham is unlikely to actually face the starters (right?), but he’ll nevertheless face the challenge of improving from week-to-week, which is always the stated goal of every player who’s ever donned a Patriots jersey under Bill Belichick.
As Kyler Murray proved on Thursday night, it can be quite difficult to string together two good quarterback performances as a rookie.
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
In case you missed it, a little kerfuffle broke out on the practice field between the Patriots and Titans on Thursday. Such is the nature of the business, when that business involves grown men pushing and shoving each other every single day under the hot summer sun. Emotions can run high.
While Vrabel dismissed the scuffle as hardly registering on the fight scale, we’ll see Saturday night if any of that emotion drips into the game. While that may not be the most important element of the game, it will provide an opportunity for some of those younger players to learn how to handle themselves when things go sideways on an NFL field.
The Blind Side
After his most active week on the practice field, we all may finally witness Isaiah Wynn’s return to game action. He obviously didn’t last long a year ago, when he tore his Achilles in the first quarter of his first preseason game.
This summer, it’s been a slow build in terms of workload for the presumed starter at left tackle. While the mood constantly coming from Wynn and the coaching staff has been confident, it will still be critical for Wynn to take some important reps in the preseason before the games really begin — and before the man he’s protecting is a 42-year-old named Tom Brady.
Across the board, the Patriots’ defense was otherworldly a week ago against Detroit. The Lions had negative yardage before their final drive of the night. It was impressive.
BUT … that was an offense that had to witness Jermaine Kearse suffer a season-ending injury in the first quarter, and it was an offense being run by Tom Savage and David Fales.
While Ryan Tannehill is not exactly Joe Montana, he is at the very least an experienced, mostly capable NFL quarterback who has beaten the Patriots in regular-season games four times before. As the backup (right?) to Marcus Mariota, Tannehill should provide a steeper challenge to the entire defense, as well as presumed-play-caller-but-not-officially-play-caller Jerod Mayo.
The Patriots continue their preseason on Saturday night in Nashville, and WBZ-TV has you covered from start to finish. Tune in Saturday at 7 p.m. to watch the Patriots take on the Titans, and stay tuned after the game for Patriots Fifth Quarter, with live reaction and press conferences from Bill Belichick and the Patriots.