Football season is here, and it will officially kick off in Foxborough on Thursday night when the Patriots host the Bengals in New England's preseason home opener. While this time marks the unofficial transition from training camp to the regular-season schedule, it also means that the real opening night is right around the corner.
Yes, Terrell Owens and his Buffalo Bills will be here before you know it for Monday Night Football on Sept. 14. But the Patriots have a few more items to cross off the list before they are ready to go for the 2009-10 season.
Seven-year veteran Dan Koppen called this yearâs camp the toughest heâs seen yet. Double sessions almost every day in the hot summer heat only means that Bill Belichick is getting his team in the best condition possible to overcome the results from last season, and hopefully vie for another Super Bowl bid. But letâs not get ahead of ourselves.
The preseason games are on the schedule for a reason. Teams can assess their work from the previous grueling weeks of training camp in a game atmosphere. Sure, the starters might not all play in a given sequence, but coaches are able to test their players, use them in different scenarios and figure out what works before the score actually matters. In September, the trial period is over, and all that counts are the wins.
So what can fans expect out of Thursdayâs game against Chad Ochocinco (I actually had to look that name up to get the correct spelling. How ridiculous!) and the Bengals?
Tom Brady will most likely start and continue to take reps behind center. How long Brady remains in the game is yet to be seen. When Brady does come out of the game, expect to see more of Kevin OâConnell as the No. 2, rather than Andrew Walter.
Wes Welker, who missed the first preseason game in Philadelphia and the three practices that followed, should return to the field. Welker was present at practice on Tuesday and said he wants to play against Cincinnati. Finally, it is believed that Fred Taylor will see his first game action in a Patriots uniform on Thursday night. He also sat out the preseason opener in Philly.
All in all, Thursday isnât going to tell you exactly what the New England Patriots are capable of accomplishing this upcoming season. But it will give fans another glimpse into the Belichick playbook and likely answer a few more questions.