Hand-wringing over the near-certain demise of the Patriots dynasty and Tom Brady's inability to dominate without Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski reached a fever pitch when he went down with a knee injury in Patriots practice this past week. Two preseason games into 2013, all of that concern looks pretty dumb.
Brady was nearly perfect once again on Friday night, going 11/12 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Brady stayed in two series and his first incompletion didn't come until his final attempt, a third-down throw to Danny Amendola that was just a miscommunication.
Fixing those communication issues are the primary reason why Brady needed to play, but it's worth noting that he and Amendola looked very much on the same page throughout the game. Amendola caught six balls for 71 yards and a touchdown and, yes, you can probably start cussing now if you planned on snagging him later in your fantasy draft.
Brady might need a little bump in the fantasy department as well; no one plays better when they're angry than the Patriots quarterback and he looked straight-up pissed out there on the field for New England. Can you blame him? He's arguably the greatest quarterback of all time and at the very least in the discussion.
Yet he loses a few weapons (admittedly very good ones) and everyone writes him off like he's never done this before. That's the thing: Brady has. But still, people were wary. Add in the knee injury and it was a full-blown dogpile.
Preseason games aren't worth much in evaluating how someone will perform in 2013 but two things are clear with Tom Brady. He's not hurt and he's definitely determined to shrug off any concerns about his ability to produce without his favorite 2012 weapons readily available.
More Like Studfeld
Speaking of Brady's weapons, did you happen to see Zach Sudfeld doing work out on the field for the Patriots? The man our pal Ben Volin of the Boston Globe called "Baby Gronk" looked like the latest New England offensive revelation Friday, catching two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.
His 22-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Mallet was particularly impressive, given the ball skills that Sudfeld flashed as well as the concentration to pull in a bobbled ball and retain it for the score.
No one expects him to turn into Gronk 2.0 or anything (everyone forgets what an astounding blocker Gronkowski is anyway) but if the big guy has to hit the PUP and Brady doesn't have him, Sudfeld could definitely fill in for a few weeks.
Strained Muscle Hamster
Friday night was just a general nightmare for Buccaneers fans. There were a few highlights -- Kevin Ogletree and Mike Glennon hooked up for a very nice touchdown in the second quarter -- but the offensive line was dominated by the Patriots defensive line (Chandler Jones looked particularly dominant) and, worst of all, Doug Martin left the game in the first quarter with a head injury.
As I noted, there's no telling exactly what the nature of the injury is yet, but concussion isn't a horrible bet, right? Dude got jacked in the head with someone's knee, left the game and was taken into the locker room. Hard to fathom it's something else unless Martin has a phantom "neck injury" or the dreaded "concussion-like symptoms."
Judging by updates from Twitter, that might be a possibility. "Evaluated" is new though!
RB Doug Martin took a knee to the helmet early in the game and was evaluated, but he wasn't going to play much longer either way.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) August 17, 2013
If it's anything that lasts too long, though, it's a major concern. Martin is the key to Tampa's offense and with Mike James and Peyton Hillis behind the Hamster, they're not exactly stacked at running back.
The Black Hole
Everyone already knew the Raiders were going to be a disaster right? OK just checking. Because they really might be the biggest trainwreck we've seen in a while, although with the Jaguars, Jets and Chargers twice on the schedule, four wins is a possibility. They'll need to block better though.
#Raiders sacked 5 times in 1st half. Last time they did that in reg season was 11/6/06 at Sea— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) August 17, 2013
Flynn had a really nice touchdown throw to Denarius Moore later in the second quarter and actually finished with pretty good stats but don't be fooled: he was mauled and the Saints let up. It's going to be a long season for Oakland.
Friend of the site Chris Burke of SI.com pulled an interesting nugget from the broadcast as well:
Interesting stat from the Buffalo broadcast: 76 percent of EJ Manuel's plays snapped w/ 23-plus seconds on play clock. Kolb at 12 percent.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) August 17, 2013
Now either Doug Marrone is running a slowed-down offense for Kolb or Kolb's not picking up on the offense fast enough. I'll let you guess which one it is.
Long in the Neck
Mike Glennon isn't going to yank the starting Bucs job away from Josh Freeman any time soon (and Freeman, as noted, was dogged by playing the Pats first team defense). He certainly wasn't perfect. But trust me, as a guy who watched him a lot over the past few years, he's made major, major strides in the past few months.
Typically in college he'd shy away from dealing with pressure; and once pressured, Glennon would start to get happy feet in the pocket or panic early. He stood tall and made some really nice throws against the Pats who continued to pressure him.
A year sitting and learning and working with a professional coaching staff could really help him turn into something intriguing.
Charles in Charge
The Chiefs clearly missed Jamaal Charles -- sitting after an injury earlier in the week -- in a low-scoring effort that didn't tell us much about them. Colin Kaepernick only saw five snaps so it's impossible to learn much about KC's defense against Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien who rotated.
Kniles Davis replaced him but didn't draw rave reviews at all, particularly in his pass blocking.
I don't think it can be overstated how important Charles is to this team -- in my opinion he's the fulcrum of Andy Reid's offense and might be worth a couple of wins for this rendition of the Chiefs.
Well this is awkward.
"Josh Freeman can't carry the offense by himself. We all know that. He's prone to mistakes." - Ronde Barner on his former teammate #Bucs— Walter Cherepinsky (@walterfootball) August 17, 2013
Pardon me while I retweet myself.
Tim Tebow has 2 rushes for 15 yards and seven passes for -1 yards. Epic.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) August 17, 2013
South Carolina football games are going to get great ratings in Oakland, CA.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 17, 2013