Welcome to Day Two of "Patriots Week" here at Buffalo Rumblings! (I hear y'all groaning out there.) Each day this week and throughout the weekend, we'll sit down with Pats Pulpit to discuss hot-button topics heading into perhaps the most dreaded Monday Night Football matchup this fan base has ever seen.
Yesterday, we began our discussions by taking a look, with the aid of MaPatsFan, at the Patriots' new 4-3 defensive alignment. We'll switch sides of the football today to talk about everyone's favorite golden boy quarterback, Mr. Tom Brady. Is he healthy? Is he rusty? Is he his usual self? We investigate after the jump.
Rumblings: We know Tom Brady's back. We know Tom Brady is physically healthy, knee and shoulder alike. How worried are you about his mindset coming back from injury, how quickly he's working through the rust, and perhaps most importantly, his offensive line?
Pulpit: Brady's return has been interesting to watch, specifically for the mental aspects you bring up. Physically, he looks good and has been throwing since the beginning of the year. During OTAs, he spent a great deal of time with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, getting back in sync with those two specifically. As fans, we always talk about the ESP that some QB/WR combos have, but it's usually the result of a lot of hard work. Case in point: during off-season practices, both Brady and Moss worked on "signals" they use to make subtle adjustments to Moss's routes. We saw an example of it in the third pre-season game against Washington. Moss's route was designed to go outside, but both Moss and Brady noticed that area of the field was clogged with defenders. A slight adjustment was made, and Moss turned in, grabbing the ball for a good gain.
The above is an example of getting back on the same page, but I feel like Brady's been a little tentative at times. Sure, he's taken his share of hits (the Albert Haynesworth tackle, for example), but I can't shake the feeling that there's a slight difference between the 2007 and 2009 Brady. Brady says he doesn't think about his knee brace, but how can you not think about a honkin' piece of metal on your leg? I'd love to say he's back to his old self, but I need more time to observe; I think our matchup against your Bills will be a good test.
Regarding the offensive line, I'm not that concerned - this year. We had 10 of 13 linemen's contracts due at the end of 2009 and have since signed two, I believe. We also acquired rookies Sebastian Vollmer and Rich Ohrnberger, who look to be standout first year guys capable of taking NFL reps as backups this year. Next year, the current thinking is they could possibly step into a starting role. In 2008, Matt Cassel was sacked 47 times, partly due to his lack of pocket presence, but the OL would have to pick up some of the blame. Getting younger with the 300 pounders is a good thing.
That's MaPatsFan's take - and it's exactly why I like talking to him. You won't find a fairer assessment.
Here's my take: Brady is going to be interesting to watch. He's all-world, and so is his top receiver. The Pats will score a lot of points this season. But let's not pretend that Brady will just magically re-appear as his former self after a devastating knee injury. No player ever has. Brady will still look brilliant this season, and the Pats will probably win shoot-outs with ease, but the idea that every Patriots offensive play will look like something out of Tecmo Super Bowl - as they did in 2007 - is absurd. MaPatsFan alluded to it best - it's going to take Brady some time to be completely mentally over the injury.
Even when he gets there, there has to be some concern about the offensive line. New England's line has always looked better than they really are because of Brady's dominance and the skill talent around them, but that doesn't mean they haven't been very good. Matt Light is on the downswing, however, and he showed some vulnerabilities in pass protection last season. Nick Kaczur is pretty average, though serviceable. Yes, many of the 47 sacks the team gave up last season can be attributed to Matt Cassel's inexperience, but it's still a ton of sacks. Brady will get hit this year. Bank on it. Hopefully, it'll lead to a few more mistakes.
Be sure to check Pats Pulpit today and throughout the week, as they'll have several reciprocating Bills-centric discussions going on. Today's topic: surprise cuts (i.e. Dominic Rhodes).