The New England Patriots defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-21 in front of a national audience, and it’s too bad that these games don’t count in the real win column. But there are still important things to partially take away from these preseason games, and it’s always interesting to see how specific players perform in these battles. So here are five things that I think we learned from the win.
1. Tom Brady is headed for a huge year
Not just a big year but an absolutely tremendous 2013 season. Tom Brady has been playing at such a high level in the preseason that it’s almost ridiculous. Right now, he is 18-20 in the preseason, and he hasn’t thrown a pick in 206 attempts this preseason when you include joint practice snaps with the Philadelphia Eagles and Buccaneers. Brady looks like a man willing to do even more than everything to win another Super Bowl ring and put all those doubting this Patriots team to rest. The legendary signal-caller has looked as precise as ever this preseason, and he’s been making “wow” throws all August. Remember that 26-yard strike to Danny Amendola for a TD? That throw was just a laser.
2. Brady-Amendola rapport looks scary for other teams
We’ve heard an awful lot about the growing rapport between Danny Amendola and Tom Brady, and we saw it at its finest in a game situation last night at Gillette. Amendola’s 26-yard touchdown catch from Brady was the highlight of the night and was mostly the product of Brady’s arm, but there were a few other plays that really impressed me from Amendola’s perspective. Amendola made some really nice plays on the sidelines where he showed off excellent ball skills and good strength, and it is apparent that Amendola is significantly better on the outside than Welker was. The offseason signing also showcased some more top-notch route-running, and Amendola’s quickness is also definitely a point of strength.
3. Zach Sudfeld really does look like a “Baby Gronk”
If Rob Gronkowski does hit the PUP list like many of us expect, then Zach Sudfeld absolutely has to be the man starting in Gronkowski’s place. Ben Volin called him a “baby Gronk”, and that’s exactly what Sudfeld looked like yesterday. The strength on his 22-yard touchdown was absolutely incredible, and it was probably the play of the game (Tim Tebow‘s pick was the anti play of the game). What also stood out to me was Sudfeld’s catch on the two-point conversion, because he showed a lot of strength, ball skills, and control in maintaining the TD in the back of the end zone against two Buccaneers defenders. That play showcased unreal accuracy from Brady and was also the product of a great catch from Sudfeld. That play had to be perfect from both guys in order to work, and Sudfeld definitely held up his end of the bargain. His speed, strength, and pass-catching ability make him the obvious candidate to at least partially replace Gronk’s lost production. This roster is filled with solid TEs, but Sudfeld has the highest upside of them all and the most individual talent (Jake Ballard‘s knee injury has pushed him down).
4. Brandon Bolden bounces back
The running back competition between both Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount has not disappointed, and it seems like the other back turns it up a notch right when it seems like the other one is getting a leg up. After Blount tore up the Philadelphia Eagles bad blocking with his elusive rushing, Brandon Bolden had a solid game against the Buccaneers, while Blount didn’t impress against his former outfit (I was really looking forward to him sticking it to Greg Schiano for throwing him in the doghouse). Bolden finished the day with 38 rushing yards on six carries, but it should be noted that he had just 13 yards on five carries if you take out a 25-yard scamper. But, then again, Blount knows a lot about having a stat line inflated by one long run, because Blount makes his living on the home-run rush. Bolden is different, but he benefited from a long run helping his stat sheet. It’s a game of averages, though, so I guess I’ll take it, even if I have to put a damper on his day.
5. Shane Vereen is for real
Well, I knew Shane Vereen was no faker, but I was too slow to get on the Vereen hype train. It might be too reactionary to jump on board after just one preseason game, but the fact that he has had two big preseason games and is being touted by others means that I need to start viewing Vereen as more than just a “wrinkle”. Vereen is going to be a big piece in this offense, and I should have stuck to that line of thinking. Vereen had one drop, but he also had four catches on six targets for 46 yards (11.5 yards per catch). Vereen has been splitting out wide and rushing well, as he had 29 yards on four carries for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. This guy is an all-around weapon, and the Cal product is even more explosive than Danny Woodhead. Vereen is such a deadly, versatile weapon, and it’s finally time I give him more credit. I still think a few people are overhyping him, but don’t sleep on him as potentially one of the five best skill position players on this team.