The Patriots currently stand at 1-2 in the preseason after losing to the Bucs following a few days of joint practices.
There isn’t a lot of time to stew about the game, since the Pats have their final game against the Giants on Wednesday.
Bill Belichick said there was nothing good to take away from their offensive performance, but I disagree, like all preseason games, there was some good and some bad. Here are my six keys.
Stevan Ridley impressed me big time running for 87 yards on 16 attempts and one touchdown. His offensive line wasn’t helping him out, so much of that 5.4 yards per carry was bluntly on his shoulders.
Jeff Demps also impressed in his debut flashing a 29 yard long run. Shane Vereen didn’t help himself out getting injured after just two carries. The injury didn’t look serious, but it also doesn’t look good for Vereen’s chances of passing Ridley on the depth chart.
-OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
A lot of people are letting the panic set in a bit early about the offensive line play, but I’m less concerned. Sure, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon haven’t looked perfect, or even good, but keep in mind the Patriots were still missing Sebastian Vollmer and Brian Waters for all of the game, and Logan Mankins for most of it.
The Pats OL allowed two sacks and four QB hits, and seem to be having a huge problem with speedy outside rushers. For the most part, the Patriots running backs aren’t helping out much in blitz pickup either.
Here’s the coverage charting I did for this week (yards allowed in parenthesis):
Cole – 3/8 (28) 2 Deflections
Carpenter – 3/3 (24) TD allowed
Mayo – 2/3 (9)
McCourty – 1/3 (14)
Koutouvides – 2/2 (16)
Dowling – 2/2 (25)
Spikes – 2/2 (16)
Gregory – 1/1 (25)
Wilson – 0/1 Pass Interference
Arrington – 0/1 Deflection
Ebner – 0/1
The linebackers continue to get hit hard in the pass coverage game, especially the backups. I think that will continue as long as the Patriots keep using off zone coverage against running backs, tight ends and slot receivers covered by LBs.
Marquice Cole got targeted often, but was mostly impressive by my watch. He got his hands on the ball a couple times, but still has a tendency to lag behind his man on too many plays.
This play was really the killer and one that we’re very used to as fans of Tom Brady and the Patriots at this point. Brady tried to force a pass in to Gronk, it got tipped and picked by rookie Mark Barron for a touchdown. Lets hope that Brady isn’t quite as interception prone as he was last year.
+THIRD DOWN DEFENSE
The Bucs were just 3-11 on third downs against the Patriots, and that’s an area where the team really struggled last year. A lot of credit goes to the run defense, who seems to be having no trouble stuffing the middle of the field again this year. This team is built to stop the run, so the Pats should have no problem against even quality backs like rookie Doug Martin.
Ron Brace continued to impress. It’s nice to finally see some return out of draft picks Brace and Jermaine Cunningham this preseason.
Even with Olympic superhero Jeff Demps back to return, the team still struggled in the return game. I’m beginning to think it’s a bigger issue than just the returners. It’s odd that a team that concentrates so hard on special teams can be so poor in one aspect. It’s possible that after the new kickoff rules last year, Belichick is just spending less time preparing for it. Still, a 23.2 yard return average isn’t going to get the job done.