TAMPA - The sun will be down but the temperature will still be up at kickoff Friday night. Temperatures here are in the high 80s and the humidity's a bear.
A few pregame notes...
Spoke to Dan Koppen Thursday about this game. He's in a position where his job security isn't assured. He acknowledged as much. Asked about his slow start to camp, Koppen said, "I think it's getting back into it. Just trying to get better. Slow start, whatever, doesn't matter just trying to earn a spot on this team and see what I can do."
Asked if he realizes the height of the competition between himself Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald and Dan Connolly puts him in jeopardy, Koppen said, "Every day you gotta earn a spot. There's no sacred cows here. Every year you earn your spot and this year we've had a lot of guys who are playing well. They deserve a chance, I deserve a chance, we'll see how it goes."
Agent Drew Rosenhaus was on the field before the game and caught up with Donte Stallworth. Rosenhaus has five Bucs clients and eight Patriots clients, including Rob Gronkowski.
Jeff Demps in on the field in BJGE's jersey and figures to get some reps. Where is the question.
There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.
"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.
"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case, and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”
The Patriots are opening up a roster spot, according to multiple reports.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport was the first to report that the team has informed defensive tackle Anthony Johnson that he will be waived.
Johnson, 23, made the Patriots out of training camp after putting together an impressive preseason in which he recorded five quarterback pressures and was in on two sacks. In two regular-season games, he has played 43 snaps as an interior pass-rusher, registering one quarterback hit and one hurry. He was inactive for New England's Week 2 game against the Dolphins.
The Patriots now have 52 players on their active roster and have room to add one more. Might that spot be reserved for a quarterback? Unless the Patriots believe that both of their quarterbacks -- Jimmy Garoppolo (dealing with a shoulder injury) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) -- could be unavailable for Sunday's matchup with the Bills, that would seem to be unlikely.
Bill Belichick and his team have a unique scenario facing them in that they have two players coming off of suspension following their Week 4 game against Buffalo as Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich are set to be activated following their four-game suspensions. As of right now, the team will still need to reduce its active roster by one player in order to make room for both.
The Patriots have one open spot on their practice squad, and Johnson does have practice-squad eligiblity. Should he clear waivers, the team could retain him by signing him to that 10-man unit.