The New England Patriots hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their second pre-season game Friday night.
The Pats and Bucs had three joint practices this week, wrapping up training camp for 2013. With just about two weeks until roster cuts, 90 guys will fight for 53 spots on New England’s roster. Needless to say, the competition level is high.
Friday night’s game gave fans and analysts the chance to get a more in-depth look at some of these players. Here are five plays that stood out from the game. —
Amendola Makes Statement: The Tom Brady to Danny Amendola connection was strong Friday night, as the two combined for six completions, 71 yards and a touchdown. The most notable was a third and 11, which Brady threw a dart to Amendola to pick up the first down.
Having the two connect early and often, as well as showing the ability to move the chains, is critical for this Pats offense. With Wes Welker no longer on the team, Amendola will be expected to replace a lot of the lost production. So far so good for Amendola.
Patriots rookie linebacker Jamie Collins is carving out a role on the defense. (FILE:USPresswire)
Jones, Pats Swarm Bucs: From the start, the Patriots defensive front seven was active. The play that jumps out to me, was the Brandon Spikes sack of Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich rushed off the edge; tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly stunted (criss-crossed) inside; while Spikes charged up the middle, blowing by Bucs running back Doug Martin. Spikes got to Freeman, who really had nowhere to go.
Later in the first quarter, Jones beat Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn to sack Freeman once again. The Pats secondary had good coverage and Jones made a great play wrapping up Freeman.
Last week, New England’s defense struggled to attack Philadelphia’s signal callers. This week, Jones and the Pats first-team defense swarmed the Bucs to register four sacks. Hopefully a sign of things to come this season.
Sudfeld Shines: Undrafted free agent Zach Sudfeld flashed again Friday night, building on his already strong campaign to make the Patriots roster. The tight end caught a beautiful diving 22-yard catch from Ryan Mallett in the second quarter.
I have seen Sudfeld make a few spectacular catches throughout training camp, but it is encouraging to see him put together strong back-to-back performances in the pre-season. At this point he seems like a lock to make the roster.
Ryan Goes For Six: Pats rookie corner back, Logan Ryan, picked off Bucs rookie quarterback, Mike Glennon, and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. Ryan jumped in front of the route, playing the pass perfectly, and made it count.
Ryan has had an up-and-down start to his rookie career, but has progressed throughout pre-season. The third-round defensive back has essentially played wire-to-wire in both exhibition games, which has been extremely beneficial for his development.
With New England’s lack of depth at the corner back position, Ryan will see some action in the regular season. He has struggled at times, but it is great to see him bounce back and make a play.
Collins Makes and Impact: Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins was all over the field Friday night. He lined up in multiple spots in the front seven, leading the Patriots in tackles — six total, one for loss. I’m cheating here, because there isn’t once specific play that stands out during the game, but he was constantly around the ball.
The second-round pick had some big hits, did well dropping into coverage, blitzed from the edge and as a linebacker. All and all, he had a tremendous game.
Collins reminds of another Pats linebacker, Rob Ninkovich. Friday night was a perfect example Collins has the size, speed, athleticism and versatility to do a lot for this defense. Expect to see Belichick move him around throughout the year.
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