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Friday, August 16, 2013
Sharing some halftime thoughts

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime of the Patriots’ preseason game against the Buccaneers (with the Patriots leading 18-10):

Tom Brady started and looked terrific. That has been the big storyline since Wednesday when Brady left practice with a knee injury. Wearing a brace on his left knee, Brady played the first two drives (25 snaps, including penalties and two-point conversion).

After playing 16 snaps in the preseason opener last week, and 25 tonight, Brady has built the foundation to play into the second half next Thursday in Detroit against the Lions when the starters traditionally play their most snaps of the preseason.

No questions with Brady tonight. Impressive, all around. Danny Amendola had a strong debut, playing the Wes Welker-type role. The rapport he has developed with Brady was evident early.

And while Brady was the headliner, there is also no overlooking the defense. If the Patriots can rush the passer like this (4 sacks), it would mark a significant turnaround for a unit that hasn’t consistently done so in recent seasons. The first-unit defense played the first three series (11 snaps), with captains Jerod Mayo (1 series played) and Vince Wilfork (2 series played) having a reduced load.

So between Brady and the pass rush, it was a successful half for the Patriots with their top units.

A few other thoughts:

1. Rookie free-agent tight end Zach Sudfeld was on the receiving end of a Tom Brady thread-the-needle two-point conversion, and then showed great concentration and hands to haul in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett up the seam after it was initially tipped. Sudfeld, at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds (probably closer to 255) looks like the Patriots’ best “move” tight end right now.

2. The difference in snaps played between rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (21) and Aaron Dobson (2) on the first two drives of the game with Brady was notable. Could be a sign that Thompkins is making a charge and had a better week of practice (looked that way from this viewpoint during the week), but it’s always dangerous to read too much into preseason playing time.

3. Defensively, Marcus Benard came on as the team’s interior sub rusher. Looks like he’s carving out a niche for himself on the team in the Jermaine Cunningham role.

4. Surprising to see fullback James Develin get so much early playing time (14 snaps). Could be a case of the coaching staff wanting to evaluate him in comparison to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in two-back sets.

5. Some downers: Kickoff coverage, field-goal protection unit with false starts, situational defense at the end of the half with the second-unit safeties, and Logan Mankins’ unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

6. The Buccaneers get the ball to start the second half.