Connection between Brady, Lloyd requires bit of 'blind faith'

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Connection between Brady, Lloyd requires bit of 'blind faith'

FOXBORO -- When Brandon Lloyd walked away from New England's Week 1 win with five catches for 69 yards, nobody was looking to throw the guy a parade. He was, as the Patriots are so fond of saying, only doing his job. An expectation for success was born of his talent, catalyzed by Tom Brady's, and seemingly solidified each time the pair completed a downfield pass in training camp.
Which is why the preseason was underwhelming.
Lloyd caught one ball, for all of 12 yards, in two games. The Patriots first game of the 2012 season consequently seemed to roll up fast.
Did he and Brady get enough on-field reps together? How could they possibly have?
The quarterback's take, on the first Wednesday in September, was essentially a shrug and a smile.
"You dont know, but you have confidence that you can do it when it matters. Like I said, everything needs to be proven; its not like the predictions you make on Wednesday all come true. You go out and every play is designed to score a touchdown.
"It doesnt necessarily mean thats whats going to be the case in the case in the game, but if you put together enough good plays and not negative plays and penalties and turnovers and things that play into complementary football, and thats getting everybody involved, whether its Wes or the running backs or tight ends."
Or Lloyd.
Because he played for Josh McDaniels in Denver when the current Patriots offensive coordinator was the Broncos' head coach, it was understood Lloyd would have familiarity with certain concepts of New England's offense.
But he and Brady had to form a relationship all their own. And in light of the failed 2011 experiment that was Chad Ochocinco, there were no guarantees in place.
Both players had to accept 'not knowing' how, or if, it would come together. They had to submit to trust.
Actually, Lloyd calls it something else.
"I guess we should use the word faith. Because it's blind," he said, unleashing one of his booming, rolling laughs into the locker room. "That's pretty much what it is. We're trusting each other that we're prepared and we're seeing the same thing, we're in shape, we're capable, we're available. So you have to have faith that we're all doing our part, and when you go out there on Sunday it's going to come together.
"We're all here to win. The coaches aren't guessing -- they know what they're doing, they know what defenses to expect, we know what to expect; so when they call the play, I'm expecting that we're going to get the desired coverage and we're going to get a positive outcome."
When it does work? No, no parades quite yet. But it's certainly a start.
"It's exciting. Because it's like, this is just the beginning. And if we continue to have success then our confidence goes up, our timing works better it's just the beginning. We're trying to take it a day at a time."

Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

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Belichick impressed by rookie Thuney's work at left guard

FOXBORO -- Joe Thuney may not have won the starting left guard job officially, but Bill Belichick says he's on the right track. And for a rookie, that's feat in and of itself.

The third-round pick out of North Carolina State -- you may remember it as the Kevin-Faulk-in-the-No.-12-jersey selection -- has been the first-team left guard since the start of training camp, and he hasn't moved since. Thuney has occasionally taken snaps at center, and the Patriots have him learning multiple spots behind the scenes. But every time Nate Solder has run on to the field as the left tackle, Thuney has been there by his side at guard. 

Even going back to OTAs, held not long after he was drafted, Thuney was the top choice at that position. 

"Joe has done a good job with what we’ve given him," Belichick said. "There was a point where we felt comfortable making that, I’d say temporary move, It wasn’t permanent. But he has handled it well. I think he’s certainly moving towards being able to lock something down at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think he is certainly gaining on it. He has had a good preseason, had a good spring."

What once may have been deemed a temporary move back in the spring -- perhaps due to players like Shaq Mason, Tre' Jackson and Josh Kline dealing with injuries early in the offseason -- now seems like it should be a permanent one.

Thuney's run as the No. 1 left guard has been uninterrupted because his performance hasn't warranted a change. He's held his own against former first-round defensive tackle Malcom Brown in one-on-one practice drills, and he's been the highest-graded player on the Patriots offensive line through two preseason games, per Pro Football Focus. (The only players with higher grades on the team through two games are tight end AJ Derby and defensive end Trey Flowers.)

The man who went viral before the draft for his ability to solve a Rubik's cube in just over a minute has flashed an understanding of how quickly things move on the inside. Plus, playing under unretired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Thuney has been quick himself, both picking up pressures and working to the second level in the running game with aplomb.

Thuney will still have a preseason game or two to solidify his grasp on a starting role, but even for the brief period during which Mason and Kline were simultaneously healthy, Thuney was the choice on the left side of the interior offensive line. Now that Mason is dealing with what's been reported as a hand injury, Jackson remains on PUP, and Jonathan Cooper is still out after suffering a foot injury early in camp, the job seems like Thuney's to lose.

That Belichick even hinted Thuney is "gaining on it" is an indication of just how impressive he's been during his short time as a pro.