W2W4: New England Patriots (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-4)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is back. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is back. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 6

New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Cleveland Browns Passing Defense

New England Patriots
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will have Tom Brady to toss him passes at last. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Tom Brady is back.

Oh wait, that’s not enough? OK.

There are major questions regarding the Patriots’ chemistry on offense as they incorporate Tom Brady back into the offense after he has been away from the team for a month.  His top two targets–Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski–are both on the injury report this week. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon (calf) and left guard Joe Thuney (shoulder) showed up as questionable this week as well.

Gronkowski has one reception in two games after missing the first two games of the season. Edelman leads the team with just 19 reception in four games. Tight end Martellus Bennett has picked up the slack with 15 catches for a team-leading 247 yards. Danny Amendola leads all receivers with two touchdowns. Free agent Chris Hogan is averaging just two receptions a game. The offense has clearly struggled with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback these last two and a half games.

The return of Tom Brady will solve some of those woes–but the next question becomes how much rust does he have and how long to shake it off?

In Brady’s absence, LeGarrette Blount has been the bellcow with 352 yards in four games (a 1,400 yard pace over 16 games).  Blount is on the injury report with a hip injury and with Brady back receiving back James White (and possibly D.J. Foster) should get more opportunities receiving out of the backfield in spread formations.

Through four games the Patriots are 28th in the NFL in passing yards and 3rd in rushing yards.  With Brissett behind center, the offense has failed to gain 300 total yards during the past two games. It should be interesting to see what the offense looks like with Martellus Bennett, Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola, and Hogan with Brady behind center.

The Browns may be 0-4 but they will not lay down at home against the Patriots.  That said, their defense has allowed 29, 25, 30, and 31 points in each game this season. They have allowed 1,039 yards through the air in four games with ten passing touchdowns allowed. The defense lacks marquee stars other than cornerback Joe Haden.

The Browns got two sacks from scrap heap pickup Cam Johnson coming off the bench behind starting outside linebackers Corey Lemonier and Emmanuel Ogbah. The rookie Ogbah had his best game of the season last week making plays all over the field as he adapts to outside linebacker after having had his hand on the ground throughout his college career.

Patriots fans will recognize inside linebacker Demario Davis who tangled with Gronkowski in coverage the past four years with the Jets. Opposite Haden at cornerback is another familiar face in Jamar Taylor who formerly was with the Dolphins after being a second round pick in 2013. Taylor and Haden have been solid in pass coverage. However, after those two there are weak spots New England can exploit.

The Browns have veteran Tramon Williams and Briean Boddy-Calhoun at the third cornerback position and both have been terrible. Look for Brady to look for Amendola matched-up with these two throughout the game.  

Ditto at linebacker where Chris Kirksey is underrated and one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL. In a two tight end set Kirksey can cover Gronkowski or Bennett, but whoever draws Demario Davis should have a big advantage. With two tight ends, the Browns may not be able to hide Davis in coverage as the Jets have done.

With Brady even somewhat on track and accurate, he should find big holes in the Cleveland coverage and be able to exploit the matchups before the pass rush can get near him.