WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
If – after 10 days off – the offense it looks like it did on that Thursday night against the Jets, then it may be time for legitimate concern. But it shouldn’t. Looking at the lead-up to the Jets game – no padded practices during the three days before the game, Aaron Dobson at full-go for the first time since preseason, no Danny Amendola, Zach Sudfeld or Shane Vereen, an experienced and talented defensive coach on the Jets sideline – the ugliness of the performance was presaged by many. Now, with a legitimate chance to prepare Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce, and to get Sudfeld (and possibly Rob Gronkowski) back, New England should manage more than just nine first downs. Going against Tampa’s defense, Tom Brady will be paying attention to the deployment of corner Darrelle Revis. He can take a wideout away completely and Brady in the past has kept his distance from Revis. If the Bucs put Revis on Julian Edelman – the lone weapon against the Jets – that means the onus will be on Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins to pick up the slack. Bad as the Patriots looked, a lot of the ugly was a matter of timing. Brady throwing earlier than expected, quarterback and receiver seeing different things in terms of coverage, routes that were run at different angles than expected and wide throws from Brady all contributed to the struggle. The Bucs have a talented secondary with safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Baron to go along with Revis. Up front, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Adrian Clayborn are the anchors and linebackers Lavonte David, Mason Foster and Dekoda Watson have been impressing Revis, who said, “Even though they're young, they're playing like they're seven- and eight-year veterans,. And that's good. I really appreciate what they're doing for us.'' The Patriots will again be hopeful of taking some heat off Brady with a better ground attack. Ball control issues aside, Ridley can make hard yards against a tough front. The loss of Vereen hurts in this game because the Patriots need that perimeter threat to challenge the Bucs and stop them from clogging the middle to stop Ridley. Brady and Josh McDaniels likely came up with something to throw at Tampa. But if Brady’s receivers can’t hang onto what he throws at them, the Pats will be in trouble. The Bucs are allowing 17 points per game, 37.5 conversions on third down and 3.4 yards per carry through their two games against the Saints and Jets.