1. The Demps effect: Will Jeff Demps, the newly signed speedster, take the field for his first game action? Would be willing to bet heavily yes. The Patriots need to know what he can do, and they weren’t afraid to throw him into Wednesday’s padded practice with Tampa Bay, so they might as well toss him into the game. Will be looking closely to see how he handles contact, his vision, handles the ball, things like that. Final results aren’t important, the process is.
2. Wilson gets a chance: We’ve seen second-round pick Tavon Wilson handle his role as the Patriots’ “money” defender — a defensive back/linebacker hybrid who plays closer to the line of scrimmage in sub packages — with the first team. With Patrick Chung out, Wilson will likely get extended playing time at safety. He has been able to handle everything thrown at him so far.
3. Defending Jackson: The Buccaneers spent a lot of money to make former Charger Vincent Jackson their No. 1 wideout. He is exactly the type of big, physical receiver the Patriots had trouble with, and, in fact, he had 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns against them in Week 2 last year. The Bucs like to move Jackson around, so everybody will get a taste. Jackson ate up Devin McCourty last year; has he improved? What can Ras-I Dowling do against the type of big receiver he should be an asset against?
4. Solder progress: Make no mistake, unless Nate Solder is an unmitigated disaster, he is going to be the Patriots’ starting left tackle. The Patriots would really have to be desperate to make him switch sides again. Solder has classic left tackle physical tools. Sebastian Vollmer, though he has played well on the left in the past, is a prototypical right tackle. But it would be nice to see Solder improve his technique, which has been lacking.
5. Lloyd in focus: Brandon Lloyd didn’t exactly explode onto the scene, with zero catches on one targeted pass in the exhibition opener, and he didn’t play against the Eagles. It’s not mandatory, but it would be nice to at least get a hint that the connection Lloyd and Tom Brady have shown on the practice field can transfer into a game.