NASHVILLE – It was good for the Patriots to open the season with a dominating win. The Titans, despite Sunday’s 34-13 loss, are a good barometer of where the Patriots are in their quest for another Super Bowl.
Here are some things to think about post Week 1:
1) Chandler Jones is the real deal — There’s no more wondering about it, Jones has shown what he can do — and that’s cause havoc. In his first game, the rookie defensive end recorded a strip-sack, a tackle for a loss, as well as a couple of hurries. It was more than enough to make the Titans take note of his presence and the rest of the world to stop and applaud him on a job well done. What you saw on the field was a playmaker with a quick burst off the line, able to use his hands to get leverage, and a bit of tenacity to chase down a scrambling quarterback. Yes, Jones certainly has the tools to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL.
2) The Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd connection still needs some ironing out — Just four plays into the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the season, Brady looked for Lloyd on a deep pass, a sure touchdown upon completion. But it wasn’t a touchdown, just a missed opportunity. Brady came off as if he’d thrown the ball to the wrong shoulder and Lloyd came off as if he pulled up early, misreading the trajectory of the ball before it overtook him. The two gathered themselves over the course of the game to connect on five passes for 69 yards. There’s still work to do here, but it’s encouraging that the big-play potential is there.
3) Is Wes Welker’s role diminished? — There’s not enough balls to go around for all of the offensive weapons the Patriots have. For Welker, who opened last season with 12 targets (8 receptions for 160 yards), his five targets and three catches will certainly stick out. Patriots fans have gotten accustomed to him being the focal point of the team’s passing game. With the way things went on Sunday against the Titans, those days appear to be over.
4) Is this what we can expect of Stevan Ridley every week? — Any running back that can get you 125 yards and a touchdown is a great addition. But his 25 carries certainly took away any opportunity that would’ve been afforded fellow second-year pro Shane Vereen, who was out of Sunday’s game with a lingering foot injury. If and when Vereen returns, it will be interesting to see if Ridley continues to get 20 plus touches in a game. He certainly deserves it after Sunday’s performance.
5) The shuffling on the offensive line didn’t cause any problems — It was the left tackle who has been in place all preseason that was at times overmatched. Nate Solder gave up the big sack on Tom Brady, allowing Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley to chase down and ultimately bloody Brady’s nose. Beyond the one sack, it was a relatively peaceful day in the pocket for Brady, who managed to step up in the pocket and evade another hit from Wimbley to find Aaron Hernandez in the end zone in the first quarter. After all the shuffling of chairs in the preseason, the offensive line is solid enough to allow for a good running game and to keep Brady relatively clean.