What to Watch For: Patriots vs. Buccaneers
Friday, August 16, 2013
So, have you caught your breath yet?
With Tom Brady's knee injury suffered Wednesday during joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium, that "whooshing" sound was the result of a collective punch to the gut felt throughout New England. Fortunately for Brady - and Patriots fans - the knee is not seriously injured. It's being termed a sprain, although some reports have the injury described as more of a bruise, following tackle Nate Solder's being pushed into Brady during Wednesday's practice.
Brady wore a brace on the knee during Thursday's practice, and while there was no full contact on the field, there were no limitations to what he could do during practice drills. While declining interviews, Brady reportedly plans on playing Friday night.
While that may or may not happen, the first game at home - pre-season or not - always brings along a sense of anticipation. Following the 31-22 win at Philadelphia in the opener last week, here's what we'll be watching as Exhibition #2 unfolds:
Knee Jerk Reaction
Clearly, Brady's availability for the game is in question - and it SHOULD be in question. Why play in a meaningless game? If he plays more than a series - and he played in just two last week (both were TD drives) - it will be a surprise. And a major risk to the success of the upcoming season. Instead, look for Ryan Mallett to get a majority of the time at QB, especially since he left the Philly game early after suffering a blow to his head. Sorry Tim Tebow fans, this should be Mallett's night...although Tebow could get some time in the 2nd half.
Running Down a Dream
Especially with Ryan Mallett's expected playing time, the running game's success of a week ago probably means a return to more of the same this week, although you just never know. Best guess here is that Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and rookie George Winn share most of the time in the backfield, since the coaches (and the Eagles) saw what the one-two punch of Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount can accomplish. Winn is an outside shot, at best, to make the roster. It should come down to Blount vs. Bolden, so a lot of eyes will watch what these two do Friday night.
Take a Pass
The secondary (Aqib Talib in particular) was burned by a touchdown pass early against Philly...it will be interesting to see if further adjustments are made in personnel pairings on the field. Different combinations, with so much uncertainty over who actually might be eligible to play during the regular season, are likely to be the rule. So...expect to see experimentation, some confusion, and yes...probably some mistakes made. But if the pass rush can show improvement, the secondary will too.