The New England Patriots mostly showed positives in their 25-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, but you always have to take a look at the good with the bad. This week’s five in review will take a look at three players who impressed on Friday and two others who didn’t have the best of days.
RB Shane Vereen
Shane Vereen looks like he could be a major chess piece in the New England Patriots offense next season, and it’s easy to forget how talent he is as a rusher when all the talk about Vereen focuses on his pass-catching ability. Most of his value to this team is honestly derived from his ability to catch passes and be a versatile, explosive weapon, but you can’t forget that he can run too (I mean, he is a running back). Vereen seems to have made strides as a rusher heading into year three, and he had an excellent four carries for 29 yards against the Bucs. Either he or Brandon Bolden was the best rusher on the field on Friday, and Vereen was one of the best players on offense due to his impact as a receiver. The Patriots are definitely going to be using Vereen out wide several times next season, and that’s the sort of mismatch making that can turn an explosive player into a bona fide playmaker. On Friday, Vereen caught four passes for 46 yards on just six targets, which means he averaged 7.67 yards per target.
TE Zach Sudfeld
Zach Sudfeld deserves all the buzz he has been generating, and I am convinced that he is the right guy to start if Rob Gronkowski ends up hitting the reserve/PUP list to start the season. Friday’s game was a huge one for Sudfeld, who did a great job to secure a two-point conversion at the back of the end zone and an even better job to haul in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett. It sure took a lot of concentration and ball skills in order for Sudfeld to track down that one after initially bobbling it (or was it tipped slightly?), and he has the versatility to be a “move” TE for the Patriots when Gronk comes back. His upside as a blocker also can’t be ignored, and that was actually his best trait in college. It’s just that he blocked in Nevada’s Pistol Offense and needs to refine his pro-style blocking (that has reportedly improved gradually in camp).
QB Tim Tebow
Uh, yeah, it really was that bad for Tebow, who didn’t have a single good pass. I mean, none of those seven throws (not even the one completion that went for -1 yards) were good, and the interception was as bad of a pick as you’ll ever see. Matt Stankiewitch, who also had a rough day, started things off with a bad snap, but what Tebow did next was just inexcusable. He stepped up after being in the shotgun (he had great protection), and then fired off a throw that was so poorly placed that it didn’t look like he was aiming for Kenbrell Thompkins at all. Tebow basically threw it right at a Buccaneers defender, and there is no excuse for that throw. He showed absolutely nothing positive in that game as a passer, and the only thing he can take solace in are the 30 yards on the ground. Tebow isn’t going to get cut over this (the Patriots don’t deal in the business of knee-jerk reactions and knew about all these “downs” with Tebow before hand), but this definitely doesn’t help his stock. Another performance or two like this, and the Pats might just believe that there is nothing to develop in Tebow.
P Ryan Allen
Ryan Allen had a golden opportunity to make his mark on the punting competition with a strong performance in a game, but his play once again was left begging for improvement. The dependable Zoltan Mesko averaged 44.3 yards per punt, with a 50-yarder that hit the Bucs 11-yard line being an absolute beauty. Meanwhile, Allen couldn’t pin the Bucs inside the 20, as he recorded a touchback while in opponent’s territory. His second punt was putrid and went nowhere (I think it was just a 35-yarder), and Allen now has some huge ground to make up on Mesko.
LB Jamie Collins
The second-round rookie out of Southern Mississippi simply makes plays, and Jamie Collins is going to be a real secret weapon on defense for the Patriots. He won’t start with that group of linebackers ahead of him, but he should get plenty of playing time and could vulture some snaps from Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower in passing situations. Collins still needs some polishing on run defense, but it is clear to me that he has talent against the run and does a great job of shedding blocks downhill. He needs work, but he has huge potential in that facet of the game. Collins led the New England Patriots with six tackles on Friday, including a tackle for loss, but the thing that impressed me the most about Collins was his coverage ability. We’ve all heard about how great he is in coverage (he played some safety back in the day), and he showed it against the Buccaneers.