Tom Brady has been itching to play meaningful football again for months now. On Sunday, he’ll finally have that opportunity once again.
With three of his top four options from 2012 — Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez — all gone from the Patriots’ roster, Brady has been forced to work with an entirely revamped receiving corps this preseason. Now, we’ll finally have the chance to see the sort of chemistry he’s developed with those players.
Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins have emerged as Brady’s best options at receiver, earning the quarterback’s trust throughout the preseason and showing flashes of brilliance at times that should have Patriots fans brimming with confidence. Even so, there is a lot of anticipation to see Brady in real action with his new crew for the first time.
Beyond Brady, the Patriots have a number of questions to answer against the Bills on Sunday. So, let’s try and address at least a few of them ahead of kickoff in this week’s version of the Three and Out.
1. Brady’s bunch — We’ve mentioned it already, but Brady’s new receivers will be front and center here in Week 1. Even more than his chemistry with rookies like Thompkins and fourth-round pick Josh Boyce, Brady’s rapport with Amendola will be the one most in focus on Sunday. Amendola was the Patriots’ big-name free agent signing this offseason and is expected to fill Wes Welker‘s role in the offense this season. Brady needs to get in sync with his new No. 1 weapon early on in the season, and there would be no better way to kick that off than Week 1 in Buffalo.
2. Not so Safety — Coming into the preseason, there seemed to be almost endless depth in the secondary, but injuries and cuts have made for a sticky situation at safety — at least in Week 1. Behind Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, second-year player Tavon Wilson is the only true safety on the Patriots’ active roster for Sunday’s game. Veteran cornerback Marquice Cole has filled in at safety during the preseason, getting extra reps at the position in training camp, so there’s a good chance he may have a more active role in the secondary against the Bills. The Patriots could be in quite a bind if an injury occurs to any of the their safety corps, though.
3. Protecting the Quarterback — Between Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus and Manny Lawson, the Bills have one of the most fearsome front sevens in football, which may be bad news for Tom Brady. The Bills’ pass rush is shaping up to be one of the best in the NFL, especially now that former Jets coordinator Mike Pettine has taken over the defensive responsibilities in Buffalo. With such a dangerous group up front, there will be a special onus on the Patriots’ offensive line on Sunday to keep Williams and his cronies out of the backfield and keep Brady upright and intact. it will be a tough test, but one that Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder and company should be up to.