TAMPA -- After reviewing the first half of the Patriots' convincing 31-14 win over the Buccaneers, some follow-up thoughts:
1. The Patriots' coaching staff showed a lot of confidence in rookie left tackle Nate Solder. First offensive play -- an empty set with Solder one-on-one. This is a player who had no organized team activities and has been in camp two weeks. Solder had one play I think he'd like to have back, getting knocked back on an inside rush in the two-minute drill. That's the one rush I've noticed Solder has had some trouble with in camp, when a rusher starts outside before coming inside.
2. In sub packages, the Patriots have taken big defensive tackles like Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love off the field in recent years. On Thursday night, they stayed on, giving them a chance to work on their pass rush. Some solid push inside. Love, for example, had a nice rush on left guard Ted Larsen on the Buccaneers' first third down play, forcing quarterback Josh Freeman off the spot.
3. Tight end Aaron Hernandez isn't known for his on-the-line blocking, but it looked to me like his willingness to engage defensive end Adrian Clayborn and stay with the block was a key in springing Danny Woodhead on his 29-yard run in the first quarter. Hernandez was also lined up next to left tackle on Woodhead's 14-yard run later in the first quarter. Hernandez showed he is more than just a pass-catcher in this game.
4. Yikes. After touting that the Patriots slipped up in not keeping 2010 sixth-round pick Ted Larsen last year -- especially given some of the depth concerns this year -- Larsen didn't make me look too good. The Buccaneers' starting left guard had a tough night. Veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren, in particular, gave him fits.
5. Thought rookie free agent Will Yeatman passed his test, getting more extended playing time. Was impressed to see him blocking defensive end Adrian Clayborn with success on a first-quarter incomplete pass in which Tom Brady held the ball a long time and ultimately fired an incomplete pass. Yeatman, who also had a wham block on BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 16-yard first-quarter run as he came in motion and timed things nicely, is the leading candidate to be this year's surprise rookie free agent to make the club.
6. Mismatch of the night: Patriots defensive end Andre Carter against any Buccaneers left tackle. If Carter plays like that, he will be one of the best NFL values in free agency.
7. Right guard Dan Connolly, as noted by ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, had a tough time with Gerald McCoy on a second-quarter play that quarterback Tom Brady took a low hit. It looked like Connolly also had trouble with defensive lineman Michael Bennett on the next play as well.
8. Nice recovery by long snapper Matt Katula after a high snap in the preseason opener. No issues there.
9. The Patriots are thin at linebacker and defensive back. With two open roster spots, those are the areas that figure to be addressed -- quickly.
10. The main negative from the first half was the offense's inability to execute in the two-minute offense. And even then, the offense was starting at its own 3.
11. Bounce-back performance from cornerback Darius Butler.
12. Bill Belichick noted that playing in hot, humid temperatures will be a good preview of the season opener Sept. 12 in Miami. It gave the team a good gauge of its conditioning. Looked pretty good.