It is Week 2 of the Pre-season and the New England Patriots host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro tonight in a game now highlighted and made important by the sudden injury scare over Tom Brady's left knee on Wednesday. With Brady returning to practice the next day wearing a knee brace, he expects to start tonight on home turf and maintain the Patriots perfect start to pre-season.
However, the Buccaneers will not be an easy game as they are team of unique talent on both sides of the ball. Here is my breakdown of what to watch out for:
1. Tom Brady's Reps:
With Brady suffering his knee injury, you can expect him to start and want to put on a show for the home crowd, yet the necessity to preserve him for Week 1 v Buffalo Bills will be key. Expect the offence to follow the same trend as against the Eagles last week: two drives one governed by Stevan Ridley and one by Brady hooking up with his young receivers.
2. Bucs run defence
The Bucs had one of the best run defences last year, and so will be tested versus the strong running back core of Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. Likewise, the front seven of the Patriots defence will face the muscle hamster of Doug Martin.
3. Patriots secondary
The infamous Patriots secondary will get a real test tonight versus two quality wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
4. Eyes on Ballard
Jake Ballard will be now getting some more on-field in-play work as the Patriots attempt to continue a two tight end scheme but with Ballard sharing the field and load with rookie free agent Zach Sudfeld. With Daniel Fells unlikely to suit up due to persistent injury and with Rob Gronkowski not back until the regular season; it is time for Ballard to repay the faith shown in his selection off waivers by the Patriots last season.
5. Receivers miss Revis
The young receiving core of Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins will have a chance to further the positive impression they have made so far without the threat of fear of visiting (Darrelle) Revis Island who is still out and is expected to be back for Week 3 of pre-season (when the Bucs visit Miami).
6. Cards to the chest
Oddly, this is a pre-season game dress rehearsal. These two teams play each other for real in Week 3 of the regular season again at New England on September 22nd, so perhaps expect the match to become a bit more of a training run through in the second half as Coaches Bill Belichick and Greg Schiano pull starters and do not show too much of any schemes before that regular season encounter.
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