Here are my thoughts on the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from their matchup from the second week of the preseason in just over 500 words:
- The Patriots running game will take on a multi-dimensional look this season. They have the quickness/elusiveness of Danny Woodhead, inside power running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and new for this season, the ability to get to the second level with rookie Steven Ridley. Ridley has been agility than first thought. And we haven’t even gotten to long-time holdovers such as Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. It will be interesting to see the approach the coaches take with the running game as we go forward.
- I don’t chart plays in the preseason since teams don’t game plan, but it seemed to be they were out of spread looks quite often with the first-team offense. I don’t see them going away from the two tight end looks from last season. TE Aaron Hernandez is going to be a bigger factor this season if he's healthy, especially when he's detached.
-While fans want to beat up Ryan Mallett for his bad INT, look at the throw he made right after that to WR Matthew Slater. Mallett showed surprisingly good pocket movement and evaded the rush and still made a stick throw to Slater. Mallett still needs a lot of work, but there’s plenty of good talent to develop there.
- It was interesting to see ILB Jerod Mayo used as a pass rusher. He lined up in back of one of the ends on a few plays, but also lined up between both A-gaps on others, much like Packers OLB Clay Matthews. As one Twitter follower asked, “Seems to me like the Patriots defense has decided to attack instead of react this year. Is that what you've seen?” I would tend to agree. They clearly are looking to be more aggressive rather than just sitting back on their heels.
- It seemed that the Patriots were playing mostly a 4-3 in the first half (I noticed just a few 3-4 looks). Veteran DE Andre Carter would not hold up playing end in a 3-4. He looked to be playing end on at least a few plays in the first half in the 4-3.
- They clearly weren’t ready for what the Patriots were doing on defense, but keep in mind it wasn’t as though they were game planning for anything. Buccaneer fans shouldn’t overreact to the poor showing by the first-team offense.
- One thing that the Buccaneers clearly are still lacking on offense is speed at the running back position. It’s too bad that the team decided not to bring back RB Kareem Huggins, who suffered a serious knee injury last year. Now, the team has no speed replacement in back of starting RB LeGarrette Bount.
- Not surprisingly, the Buccaneers, who had a terrible pass rush last season, had no answer for the New England’s fast break passing game. Any team that decides to run a spread against the Buccaneers should have no problem moving the ball. But a bigger potential problem is their run defense. The Patriots had their way and were easily able to get to the second level with their running game. Not having starting DT Roy Miller was an issue, but the Patriots easily moved the Tampa Bay front-four off the ball.