The New England Patriots are two games deep into the 2013 pre-season. And while the focus is (and rightly should be) on the “pre” aspect of the word and this time of year, there are a few things that can be taken from the first couple live football games of this late summer. In no particular order here are my takeaways from the wins over the Eagles and the Buccaneers, especially focusing on the newcomers to the organization.
Leon Washington – Full disclosure, both of my FSU jerseys are Leon Washington’s #3. Since leaving Tallahassee, Leon has played for the New York Jets, the Seattle Seahawks, and now the New England Patriots. Upgrading the return game was far from a need for the Pats, but the acquisition of Washington will be game-changer at some point this season as Leon is always a threat to break a big return and he can be a reliable secondary (or thirduary…yep I made that up, sue me) running back in any offensive set.
Tim Tebow – Ever since the first time I saw Tebow play back in 2006 I knew that he was destined to play for the Patriots, especially with the close relationship between coaches Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer. Unfortunately my worst nightmares are coming to fruition and I think that the 2007 Heisman Winner may somehow have weaseled his way onto a team that I root for. The former Gator quarterback went a pathetic 1-7 passing for -1 yards on Friday night, but yet somehow I feel like he will still make the team thanks to the unique spread read-option look that he thrives in and the fact that he is such a huge momentum player. As much as I don’t think this guy is a trustable NFL quarterback, he is a quality football player who can be a valuable asset to any organization, and you can bet your last dollar that Bill Belichick is trying to figure out the way to maximize his potential while staying true to the first ballot Hall-Of-Famer he has running the team until the day he calls it quits.
Chandler Jones — This sophomore campaign could be a very telling year in the career of young defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse. Jones is one of the few players in the Patriots system who has “star power” and who has the personality to thrive under the bright lights of the cameras, and Jones could be a special person in this organization if things play out right for him over the course of this season. 45 tackles and 6 sacks in his rookie campaign, Jones should be a Pro-Bowler if he improves during his second season.
Danny Amendola — Amendola has big shoes to fill in replacing Wes Welker in Tom Brady’s offense. Perhaps equally as important, Amendola also has to replace Troy Brown as worthy recipient of the #80 uniform hanging in his locker. In Friday’s game against the Bucs Amendola was certainly up for that challenge catching 6 balls for 71 yards and a touchdown. If (and that’s a big if) Amendola can stay healthy his route running and soft hands will be a major factor for the Patriots in 2013.
Dane Fletcher — After missing all of 2012 with an ACL injury, Fletcher returns as a reserve linebacker and a primary special teams player. Fletcher has never been one of the players who will wow you with his abilities, but he is a very solid, consistent player who does add intelligence and awareness to this young Patriots defense and it will be interesting to see if he can really make a name for himself this season as he progresses.
LeGarrette Blount — The Patriots acquired running back LeGarrette Blount from Tampa Bay in exchange for track-star Jeffrey Demps and a seventh round pick back in April. At 6’1”, 245 pounds, Blount is a bruising tailback who is fighting for a roster spot in a crowded Pats backfield. His unique style and incredible athleticism may be enough for him to hold on as a part-time ball-carrier for this team, and I want this kid on the roster just for the fact that you never know when he will try to jump over a defender, punch somebody in the mouth, or carry a whole team on his back as he plows toward the goalline. I’m all for taking chances with the last few spots on the roster and the fact that Blount did not turn the ball over with his (extremely limited) 42 touches in 2012 gives me enough confidence that he can still be a productive tailback in the National Football League.
Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib — Dennard and Talib are two players to keep a close eye on in the Patriots defensive secondary. Talib is a former first round pick who has had his fair share of ups and downs (both on and off the field) in his first 5 NFL seasons. Like Talib, Alfonzo Dennard was highly projected (was supposed to be a second to fourth round pick, the Patriots drafted him in the 7th) and he has had his own share of legal troubles since leaving college. They both have a chance to be season changers if they can stay on the field and compete, and it is nice knowing that any deficiencies in the defensive backfield are not due to talent but attitude.
I’m sure you are sick of “Blurred Lines” but check out this Talib mashup: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/08/08/toucher-richs-aqib-talib-mashup/
Aaron Hernandez — Sorry, nothing to see here. At least nothing in Foxboro. A (former) Patriots player going through the Massachusetts court system the same time as Whitey Bulger and the surviving Boston Marathon terrorist is something I thought I’d never see, but Chico is one of a kind and always has been.
Brandon Spikes — Let me end this article with one more shot at a Gator player. Brandon Spikes has the potential to be an All-Pro at the linebacker position despite some physical limitations that he does have. As a Patriots fan I pray that he will be able to put it all together, but at the same I always wonder about him getting caught eye-gouging at the bottom of a pile.
We’re only at the halfway point of this 2013 pre-season and there is plenty that will change between now and the September 8th opener against the Buffalo Bills (and hopefully the first start in E.J. Manuel’s career). All I’m hoping is that this blog gave you a little more information about the changes with this team and a quick glimpse at what to look forward to in Fall 2013.