FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots moved to 2-0 on the preseason with a 25-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.
The first series of cutdowns are scheduled for August 27, so with just 11 days left, players need to begin making their strongest case for a starting job, or in some cases, for the roster.
It was a big game for many of the Patriots' most prominent players, and an important one for some of those who might be fighting for a roster spot.
TE Zach Sudfeld: There just aren't enough positive adjectives to describe Sudfeld's performance. He caught a two-point conversion in the back of the end zone and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett down the seam. It seems his 6'7", 260-pound frame is making him a favorite target of his quarterbacks.
"I don't know if that's me. I think that that's more the quarterbacks being able to put it in there," Sudfeld said. "It's been such a great experience, just this entire thing, and the game today was pretty incredible — to play with all the quarterbacks, and the entire team. I'm a rookie, I have a long way to go, a lot to learn, and a lot to improve on, but so far it's been a great experience."
His blocking also looked to have improved; although he whiffed on a block that resulted in a screen pass being sniffed out, he had nice blocks in pass and run protection, showing improved technique and understanding of leverage.
Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Brandon Spikes: Ben Volin said the Patriots defense needed to create more pressure, and they delivered. Jones, Ninkovich and Spikes contributed four sacks on the night (Spikes had two), all in the first half of play. Four sacks in one game...maybe 50 sacks isn't out of reach, after all?
DT Marcus Forston: The Patriots' lack of depth at defensive tackle has been a glaring question mark throughout camp, but Marcus Forston is proving himself worthy of that third spot in the rotation, and not just by default. He created pressure up the middle on a consistent basis against the Buccaneers, and quickly shed blocks on a pair of tackles inside the five-yard line, one of which resulted in a six-yard loss.
FB James Develin: Got the starting nod at fullback, which is noteworthy because Michael Hoomanawanui has been the primary fullback in practices. The coaching staff may have hoped to use this game as a measuring stick for Develin with cutdowns two weeks away, and the third preseason game usually used as a dress rehearsal for the regular season.
QB Tom Brady: It was not a typical week for Brady, who had a knee injury scare just two days prior to the playing of this game. He put any concerns to bed by going 8-for-8 for 72 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots opening drive, and 11-for-12 for 107 yards on the night.
There were no signs of hesitation from Brady stepping into his throws. He delivered a pair of on-target passes while under pressure, and unleashed a perfect deep ball on a seam route to Danny Amendola for a 26-yard touchdown.
WR Aaron Dobson: Has been great in practices, but has just four catches for 65 yards in two preseason games, with two catches for 30 yards in Friday's game. Those numbers wouldn't be so unimpressive if Dobson hadn't played through the fourth quarter in both games. The coaching staff must feel he could use the extra work.
S Tavon Wilson: Not a lot went well for Tavon Wilson. On a running play in his direction, Wilson was blocked by a receiver and missed a chance at an arm tackle. He was called for holding on 4th-and-goal, giving the Buccaneers a fresh set of downs, before ultimately giving up the touchdown pass to receiver David Douglas. It looks like Tavon has been passed on the safety depth chart by rookie Duron Harmon, and expectations have dipped for the former second-round pick.
DE Jake Bequette: The 2012 second-round pick has been passed on the depth chart by defensive ends Michael Buchanan, Marcus Benard and Justin Francis. Bequette lined up as the right defensive end in 3-4 and 4-3 packages, and had some good pressure in the passing game, but got moved off the ball on more than a couple of runs.
P Ryan Allen: The punter battle was probably very even before tonight's game, but the pendulum swung in Zoltan Mesko's favor tonight. Ryan Allen was the first punter to get an opportunity, but he couldn't put an angle on his punt from the 43-yard line, and the Buccaneers got a touchback. Allen averaged a net of 29 yards per punt, compared to Mesko's average of 40.
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