The New England Patriots play their opening game of the 2013 season in Buffalo on September 8th. The Patriots have endured the most bag-over-the-head-punch-in-the-face offseason in recent memory. They’ve lost budding star Aaron Hernandez, rightfully so, to alleged murder charges, slot-man stud Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, and tough utility Back Danny Woodhead.
Thus far the Patriots have played a pair of preseason contests. One game came against the Eagles and another battle against the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay; both resulted in wins.
Here are takeaways and analysis from those two games:
Obviously from all the reasons given above, the Pat’s had a rough offseason from the catching-the-ball perspective. Grouping in Tight End with receivers, they lost a myriad of players, along with productive Brandon Lloyd. Moves they made originally to sign veterans didn’t work out as they recently cut veteran and former-Falcon Michael Jenkins, released ex-Bill Donald Jones after his retirement at 25 due to kidney disease, and failed to sign Emmanuel Sanders after the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to retain him.
That exhibits the confidence they have in their promising Rookies like Aaron Dobson, who made a pretty 23-yard gain on a sprawling catch against the Buccaneers, and Josh Boyce. Danny Amendola looks explosive. His hands are superb and his route-running precise. It appears that he may be ready to step out of the ‘Wes Welker-lite’ mindset and start making Foxboro-ers forget about the man himself. From the Tight End perspective, Zach Sudfield has looked phenomenal with his pass-catching (he hauled in a 22-yard TD from Mallett), but needs to refine his blocking as he came from the Pistol Offense at Nevada.
The Patriots have an established workhorse of a back in Stevan Ridley, but from then on, the depth chart gets murky. Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden are all fighting for the last three spots. The Patriots apparently have other plans for Vereen as they’ve been motioning him in to the slot where he’s drawn mismatches. Blount has a big size advantage at 6-foot, 250 pounds, but oddly, he has a proclivity for explosive plays, as showcased by the 51-yard touchdown run he ripped off in the Patriots’ first game. Blount finished that game with 101 yards on 11 carries, while Bolden had four carries for 14 yards. However, all four are so talented, the Patriots, reported by NESN, are thinking about carrying five as insurance for injury.
The Secondary (Safety and Corner)
At safety New England upgraded tremendously as they added the veteran, jaw-jarring Adrian Wilson. Certainly at 33 years old he’s regressing, but he’s a serious upgrade over the now-departed Patrick Chung, who was last seen blowing a zone coverage scheme in an Eagles uniform.
Another secondary member making an impression is Logan Ryan, who returned a pick six all the way to the house against the Bucs. He also missed an assignment that led to a Kevin Ogletree touchdown in the same game, so expectations are to be tempered. He’s probably right now looking at a fifth Cornerback spot when Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard get back from their absences. For the moment, however, he’s playing a team-high 82 snaps per contest in the preseason.
Quarterbacks Not Named Tom Brady
A man you may have heard of, or if you watch ESPN: the exalted and predicted second coming of the Messiah, Tim Tebow, is now on the New England Patriots. He’s a football player. He’s not very good at football. His preseason completion percentage of 26-percent is worst in the NFL along with his horrendous, horrible, disastrous, brutal, atrocious…get the gist? interception he threw in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. He started in the gun, stepped up, had great protection and gave the ball away, throwing it directly to the Buccaneers. In the same game he finished 1 for 7 with a grand total of -1 yard, negative. I want to believe in the guy, he’s a saint in the midst of Gabriel’s, but seriously, the guy can’t play football.
I root for Ryan Mallett as well, the Pats’ other back-up QB. Why? He’s no Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady’s Brett Favre, but the guy is an able Quarterback. He’s a pocket passer who’s been able to mature under one of the all-time greats at signal-caller. He needs to increase his trade value! He’s done a better job since leaving the preseason opener with a head injury. He came in during the second quarter of the Bucs’ game and completed passes to Michael Hoomanawanui, running back Shane Vereen, and slot receiver Julian Edelman until they stalled for a Stephen Gostowski 39-yard Field Goal. But, he looks sharp.
After the Patriots of old (by old, the last four years) haven’t had such a stout defense, this year will be completely different. Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Jerrod Mayo and Rob Ninkovich all headline a corps that is back for more in 2013 after great campaigns a season ago. The Patriots even get Dane Fletcher back, the ‘Backer who was injured in the preseason of last year and missed the whole season. Also, if you haven’t heard the name Jamie Collins, familiarize it. He’s a beast. He lead the Patriots’ in tackles in Week 2 with six, one for a loss. The guy can cover quick receivers (he played safety in college at Southern Mississippi) and hang tough with huge tight ends (he’s a monstrous 6-foot-3, 250-pounds). He needs work on running blocking and shedding the guard, but he’s a promising future for the budding Patriots.