WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
It is TBD on how much Tom Brady and the other prime-time Patriots play. Expect them to see at least a quarter because the progression to a heavy workload in Week 3 against Carolina demands they get acclimated to playing simulated football this week. The Eagles secondary was annoyingly effective against the Patriots first-team offense all week. If the starters are going to get their work and make way for the subs, they’ll need some extended drives early and that means first down is vital. The run-blocking was bad last week in Washington and – without a tight end threat – the Patriots don’t want to be staring at second-and-9 and third-and-6 all night. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen need to get some holes opened up by their interior linemen. Dan Connolly’s been getting a lot of reps at center so we’ll see if he starts there tonight. If he does, either Josh Kline or Marcus Cannon could be at right guard. Nate Solder could use a bounce-back game after a subpar opener. He left practice with a trainer on Thursday so we’ll see if that keeps him down tonight. Also interested to see how well – and how often – Brady and Brandon LaFell hook up. When the second unit plays, Ryan Mallett will be under the microscope. He missed time this week with an unknown issue but it was probably traceable to him jamming his knee into the ground last week against Washington. Josh Boyce is having a “meh” kind of camp and could use a performance that shows his potential. Would like to see running back James White get some room to move and will be watching the young offensive linemen – Cameron Fleming and Jon Halapio in particular – to see how they perform. Lack of tight end depth is a concern going into this game.
Because the beginning of the game featured an extended drive, a pick-six, and another extended drive, Tom Brady got 18 plays quickly and called it a night. He went 8 for 10 for 81 yards and a touchdown. He also threw that pick, which came on a miscommunication with newly-signed tight end Steve Maneri. The trouble Brady had against the Eagles secondary vanished when the game began. He hit Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Danny Amendola at the wide receiver spots and Shane Vereen out of the backfield. The one throw to a tight end – the look to Maneri – ended poorly. That position is going to remain a concern. Meanwhile, the running game – which spun its wheels in the preseason opener – was effective. Stevan Ridley carried nine times for 45 yards and although he was charged with a fumble, if the play had gone to replay it would have been overturned because his shoulder was down. The Patriots recovered so no replay was needed. The Patriots keep shuffling their offensive line, seemingly in an effort to promote competition and cohesiveness. Good bounceback from Nate Solder this week and at first blush it seemed Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline and Logan Mankins all played well. Jimmy Garopollo was in with the starters for the third series and had another surprisingly efficient performance (6 for 12 for 72 yards and two scores). When Mallett got in for the second half, he played like a fire had been lit under him. He ran for a touchdown and dropped in a pretty one to Brian Tyms as well. Boyce had a decent game with two catches for 31 yards but also had a silly block in the back penalty that wiped out a touchdown. As a group, the Patriots ran for 250 yards on 46 carries led by Jonas Gray’s 98 yards on 12 carries. Brandon Bolden, though, continues to run well every time he gets a chance ((three carries, 21 yards), while Roy Finch had a better game this week (7 for 37). Not much yet out of James White who goes down a little easily on first contact.