Next up in ESPN.com's team-by-team series, here are three quick takes on the New England Patriots:
1. Tom Brady's performances should be easing Patriot Nation's anxiety.
So a couple of his passes sailed late in Thursday night's appearance against the Cincinnati Bengals. Not to worry. Perhaps shots delivered by Bengals pass-rushers Keith Rivers and Robert Geathers made Brady a little jumpy, but those are the types of mental hurdles Brady must encounter in his recovery from left knee reconstruction. Brady needed to get walloped. As he needed to find his footwork again after surgery, he must retrain his mind to block out all the disruptions that can remind a quarterback he's vulnerable. Brady's well on his way back to regaining that fantastic pocket poise.
2. Don't count out Laurence Maroney.
The Patriots were deep at running back before they signed accomplished free agent Fred Taylor, who has rushed for 11,271 yards. That acquisition led many to believe Maroney, often injured and even more frequently criticized, was about to fade on the depth chart. But Maroney could return to his 2007 role as the featured back. As long as the Patriots boast a variety of skilled runners in their backfield, nobody will qualify as a workhorse. Maroney, however, has enough talent to become the back of choice over Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
3. Tedy Bruschi could have trouble making the team.
The sands in Bruschi's hour glass are down to their last few granules. Reports out of Foxborough seem to be subtly preparing Patriots fans that their beloved inside linebacker is nearing the end of his career. He might not make the 53-man roster unless there's an injury. Bruschi is 36 and can't contribute much on special teams. He has been working with the second-teamers lately in practice and did not start Thursday night's preseason game, stepping aside for Gary Guyton.
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