NFL Nation: Zach Sudfeld

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets will be hurting at tight end Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Starter Jeff Cumberland, listed as questionable with a concussion, was declared inactive before the game. Kellen Winslow is serving the final game of his four-game suspension for PEDs, leaving Konrad Reuland and Zach Sudfeld as the only active tight ends active. Reuland, listed as the starter, and Sudfeld have combined for only 64 offensive snaps and three receptions. Neither one is a good blocker, so Cumberland's absence will hurt the running game. They could use G Vladimir Ducasse as a blocking tight end.

The good news for the Jets is that RG Willie Colon (calf), also listed as questionable, is active and will start.

Aside from Cumberland, the Jets' inactive players are QB David Garrard, WR Santonio Holmes, RB Alex Green, G Will Campbell, T Ben Ijalana and OT Oday Aboushi. WR Greg Salas and rookie S Rontez Miles, signed from the practice squad Friday, are active for the first time.

The news for the Saints is that WR Marques Colston (knee) is inactive. So, too, are safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. That will put a dent in Rob Ryan's game plan because he likes to use three-safety packages. Rafael Bush is expected to start for Jenkins.

Rookie Kenny Stills is listed as the replacement for Colston, but the Saints will use all four receivers that are active.

Their other inactives are QB Ryan Griffin, RB Khiry Robinson, T Terron Armstead and DE Tyrunn Walker.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Being asked to compare New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is tricky business, but tight end Zach Sudfeld, who spent his first training camp with the Patriots but is on the Jets roster for their second AFC East matchup, handled it deftly.

“I think that it’s interesting,” Sudfeld said. “I’ve only been here a couple of weeks but they’re both extremely competitive and you can see that so there’s this under-layer of competitiveness, they both hate to lose. But they go about it in different ways. Rex is a lot more animated.”

Sudfeld was briefly nicknamed ‘Baby Gronk’ while in New England for his resemblance to Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. At 6-foot-7, Sudfeld is an inch taller than Gronkowski, but is an unrefined version of the red zone threat that Gronkowski presents.

“I guess (the comparison is) flattering because he’s such a tremendous player,” Sudfeld said, “but I’m trying to make my own path.”

The Jets nabbed Sudfeld off waivers, becoming yet another player to tread the well-worn path between Foxborough and East Rutherford, for competitive value or gamesmanship.

“He’s a sharp, sharp young man, so we do our due diligence and try to get what we can out of him,” Ryan said.

Although Ryan admitted they did try to get some information from Sudfeld, the tight end downplayed his contribution.

“I think the Jets and Patriots have played so much that I think that they know the tendencies pretty well,” Sudfeld said. “I don’t know that there was too much that I was able to offer. Obviously I’m there to help out in any way that I can but I think they have a pretty good feel for what the Patriots are doing.”

A few thoughts on TE Kellen Winslow's being suspended four games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances:

1. Impact on the offense: Winslow's absence will hurt the passing game. Not only is he the team's leading receiver (17 catches), but the overall offense functions better when he's on the field. Facts are facts: With Winslow in the game as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 79 times for 516 yards -- 6.53 yards per play. With Jeff Cumberland as the only tight end, the Jets have passed 35 times for 198 yards -- a 5.66 average. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg hasn't used a lot of two-TE sets with Winslow and Cumberland. When he has, it hasn't been too productive -- 33 pass plays for 141 yards, a 4.27 average.

2. Depth chart: This will mean a bigger role for Cumberland, who has appeared in 51 percent of the offensive snaps. (In case you're wondering, Winslow is 60 percent.) Cumberland is a capable player and, as he demonstrated Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, he can be a threat in the deep seams. There won't be much of a dropoff there, but the problem is, it'll mean more playing time for Konrad Reuland and newly acquired Zach Sudfeld. Clearly, Reuland (only 12 snaps) hasn't found a niche in Mornhinweg's offense. He's a tight end/fullback tweener, not offering much in the passing game. Sudfeld, who stands 6 feet 7, played well for the New England Patriots in the preseason and was a surprise cut last week. Once he learns the offense, he could leapfrog Reuland on the depth chart.

3. There goes the feel-good story: Winslow, in a statement released through his publicist, said he was surprised by the suspension and claimed he hasn't taken any supplements that list banned ingredients. Nevertheless, this tarnishes a potentially wonderful story. Rejected by the rest of the league, Winslow signed with the Jets after a minicamp audition, made the team and became an important player. Because of chronic knee pain (multiple surgeries), every day is a struggle. It flared up recently, causing him to miss more practice time than usual. That probably contributed to his reduced role in Atlanta (and perhaps his postgame frustration), although he made his only catch count -- a toe-tapping reception in the back of the end zone. "I want to do a lot more in this game," he told me last week. "I don't know how much longer I have, but I want to give it my all until I'm done. "

Now he's done for four weeks.

Zach Sudfeld lands with the Jets

October, 4, 2013
Tight end Zach Sudfeld, waived by the New England Patriots on Thursday, was claimed by the New York Jets on Friday, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini.

By claiming Sudfeld, the Jets absorb the balance of his contract.

The undrafted free agent was a standout during offseason workouts and training camp for the Patriots, shining in a preseason game against the Buccaneers as he worked to cement a roster spot.

He struggled out of the gate during the regular season, however, failing to catch a pass in Week 1 and dropping a throw that led to an interception. He was inactive during Week 2 due to a hamstring injury, and played a limited role in the following weeks.

The Patriots still have three tight ends on their active roster, though it is unclear if Rob Gronkowski, listed as questionable on the injury report, will play this Sunday.

Had Sudfeld cleared waivers, he would have been a logical choice to re-sign to the practice squad.

Patriots release TE Zach Sudfeld

October, 3, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots announced the release of rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on Thursday, which could be an indication Rob Gronkowski is set to return.

Sudfeld, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada who had a surprise emergence in training camp, didn't carry the momentum he had generated in the preseason into the regular season. He was used sparingly in Sunday night's 30-23 win against the Atlanta Falcons, playing eight snaps, and couldn't corral an onside kick that was recovered by the Falcons late in the fourth quarter.

If he clears waivers, he will likely return on the team's practice squad.

At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Sudfeld is more of a receiver than a pure tight end. The first indication that he might be on shaky ground came when the Patriots started using four-year veteran Michael Hoomanawanui in the role eyed for Sudfeld -- the "move" tight end in the three-receiver package. Sudfeld played 17 snaps in the season-opener, missed the team's Sept. 12 win against the Jets with a hamstring, and then played 19 snaps against the Buccaneers on Sept. 22 before he was hardly on the field Sept. 29 versus the Falcons. He didn't record a catch this season.

The Patriots currently have Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan as tight ends on the roster.

Monday practice report for Patriots-Jets

September, 9, 2013
With the New England Patriots preparing for a Thursday night game against the New York Jets, the team is required to release an injury report two days earlier than the norm, and running back Shane Vereen was listed as not having participated in practice due to a wrist injury.

This comes after FoxSports reported that Vereen required surgery on the wrist and is expected to be out for a few weeks.

Elsewhere, receiver Danny Amendola was listed as limited with a groin injury. He had left Sunday’s season-opener late in the second quarter injured before returning in the second half.

Also, running back Brandon Bolden (knee), receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring), safety Nate Ebner (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), safety Duron Harmon (hamstring), tight end Zach Sudfeld (hamstring), offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee) and running back Leon Washington (thigh) were listed as limited.

Sudfeld was limited to four snaps in the second half of Sunday’s season opener, three of which came on the Patriots’ final drive.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 1

September, 9, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the New England Patriots' 23-21 season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills:

[+] EnlargeStevan Ridley
Bill Wippert/AP PhotoPatriots running back Stevan Ridley did not get off to the stellar start he'd hoped for in Week 1.
Ridley’s place on running back depth chart: In 2012, Stevan Ridley played a team-high 45 percent of the Patriots’ running back snaps, and he appeared poised to reach a similar number this year based on the preseason and Sunday’s game in which he started. But a near-fumble in the first quarter (he was ruled down by officials), then a lost fumble in the second quarter that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown landed him a seat on the bench for the rest of the game. Does Ridley assume the No. 1 duties again Thursday night against the Jets? If not, it’s LeGarrette Blount or Shane Vereen.

Amendola’s groin injury and his availability: Receiver Danny Amendola left Sunday’s game at the end of the second quarter with a groin injury before returning in the third quarter. His gutsy, clutch performance drew raves. But after the game, Amendola was guarded about his condition and whether it might affect his availability for Thursday's game. “Right now, I just feel good about the win; that’s all that really matters to me,” he said. “We’ll figure everything else out later.”

Brady and the inconsistent passing game: For those used to seeing an explosive Tom Brady-led passing game, Sunday’s struggle was a bit of a culture shock. The inexperience of undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld showed up at times, and when Amendola wasn’t on the field, Brady didn’t look as comfortable as Amendola has quickly developed into his Wes Welker-type security blanket. On a related note, second-round draft choice Aaron Dobson (hamstring) didn’t dress for the game, and given some of the struggles in the passing game, his status on the injury report figures to be watched closely.

Can never have enough pass rush: Part of it might have been the Patriots’ willingness to concede extra rushers to keep running back C.J. Spiller and the scrambling ability of quarterback EJ Manuel in check, but the pressure with the standard four rushers didn’t seem to disrupt Manuel enough when he was in the pocket surveying the field. The starting defensive line of left end Rob Ninkovich, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork and right end Chandler Jones can’t be thrilled with the zero in the sack column on Sunday.

Picked-up pieces around Patriots

September, 5, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some picked-up pieces from around the Patriots on Thursday:

1. Collins anxious, but ready. Top Patriots draft choice Jamie Collins is readying for his first NFL regular-season action, and the 23-year old can't wait to take the field on Sunday.

"Just anxious," the linebacker said of his first regular-season game. "I'm anxious to play, get out here and see what this regular season is all about."

After being worked on both defense and special teams, including several different defensive spots, Collins said that he's planning to take on any role the coaching staff has in mind for him. "I'm the type of guy that's going to do -- wherever they put me at, I'm going to go do it to the best of my abilities because I'm a team player. No matter what it is, I'm going to do it. No matter if it's quarterback, I'm going to go out there and play."

And while Orchard Park, NY might feel like a world away from Collins' hometown of McCall Creek, Miss., Collins knows his supporters back home will find a way to watch his game on TV.

"They're going to find it," he said. "No matter where it is, they'll find it."

2. Kelly and Ninkovich hold court. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and defensive end Rob Ninkovich were among the players drawing bigger media crowds, giving this day a real “defensive” feel.

One of the topics brought up to Kelly was how he was coming off the field in some sub situations in the preseason, and if he felt was ready to play an entire game if need be. He said he used to do that in Oakland, adding, “this ain’t my first rodeo.” He added that while Bills quarterback EJ Manuel can make plays with his feet, he wouldn't exactly compare him to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Ninkovich touched on how he complements fellow starting end Chandler Jones (Ninkovich is a lower-leverage player) as well as the importance of keeping Manuel in the pocket and not giving him big rush lanes.

3. White letting the coaches do the scouting. Linebacker Chris White, recently acquired via waivers, knows the Bills well, having spent two-plus seasons in Buffalo (2011 sixth-round pick) before being traded to Detroit last month. But he's letting his new coaches do the scouting report on the Bills.

"The coaches, they pretty much know a lot," he said on Thursday. "They know a lot by themselves, they really don't need a whole lot of help from me, but I'm sure it'll be a fun week, I'm looking forward to it."

He also noted that he's staying away from communicating with his ex-teammates this week before Sunday's kickoff and “sticking to myself.” For those unfamiliar with White's game, he offered a brief self-scouting report: "I feel like I play hard, I play with a lot of energy, and I prepare well. I'm just looking to win every week."

4. Hoomanawanui: Can't view Sudfeld as a rookie. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has been a popular player for reporters this week. On Sunday, he had been swarmed after Rob Gronkowski's return to the field. On Thursday, he fielded some questions on rookie Zach Sudfeld, who projects to a significant role as the team’s top “move” tight end.

"Everyone's played a lot of football. Zach is a rookie, but he's been here long enough, and he's played in enough preseason games, where you have to throw that out the window," he said.

Hoomanawanui has been impressed with how Sudfeld has grapsed the offense, adding that "he's doing a great job asking questions and following older veterans and taking their lead."
The Patriots have informed veteran tight end Jake Ballard that he will be released today, a source confirms.

The Patriots had waited a year to work with Ballard, who was claimed on waivers from the Giants on June 12, 2012, after undergoing serious knee surgery. Upon his return to the field in 2013 spring camps and then training camp, Ballard said that his knee wasn't back to the point where it was pre-injury, but that he was still working into form. He didn't always appear to be running well.

The 25-year-old played in all four of the team's preseason games, and his primary effectiveness came as an in-line blocker. He didn't catch a pass.

The release of Ballard is a mild surprise, although he did play deep into Thursday night's preseason finale. At the time, it was unclear if that was related to him gaining more comfort with his knee in game action, or if his spot was in jeopardy.

Now we have the answer.

With both Ballard and Daniel Fells told of their release today, the Patriots now have Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui on the roster at tight end. This could be a sign that Gronkowski has a good chance to open the season on the team's 53-man roster.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe first reported the news on Ballard.
After reviewing the first quarter of the Patriots’ 40-9 loss to the Lions, some picked-up pieces and observations:

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Patriots' compact formations gave the Lions a numbers advantage in the box.
1. The Patriots' offense opened the game with a focus on compact formations. On their first play, a Stevan Ridley run for no gain, tight end Zach Sudfeld initially lined up in a lead-blocking fullback position before motioning to the left side of the line as a wing (a step behind the line of scrimmage and standing up). Tight end Jake Ballard was aligned in a similar position to the right side, although he crouched before the snap, almost as if he was on the field-goal protection unit. Receivers Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins aligned closer to the line of scrimmage, giving a true run-based look. The compact alignment brought safety Louis Delmas into the box before Tom Brady snapped the ball, giving Detroit a numbers advantage in the box -- 8 on 7. It’s hard for an offense to win in those situations, especially against a powerful defensive front like the Lions.

2. Edelman is one of the Patriots’ better blocking receivers, and in opening the game in some compact alignments, it seemed as if the Patriots were hoping to play to Edelman’s strengths in this area. But on a Ridley run for minus-1 yard on the Patriots’ third snap, Edelman looked to be responsible for picking up safety Louis Delmas, who again came down into the box and nicely timed the snap before surging through the defensive right side. Edelman couldn’t get over quick enough, in part because his path was altered as Ballard was engaged with Lions rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah and had been pushed back by a strong initial punch from Ansah. Unblocked, Delmas easily made the tackle. From Ridley’s perspective, this was a good example of how there was often simply nowhere to run.

3. The local broadcast crew on WBZ-TV had a nice isolation shot of Thompkins on his first catch, a 37-yarder down the left sideline in the first quarter. It showed Thompkins’ terrific footwork at the start of his route to get off the line of scrimmage and gain initial separation on Lions cornerback Darius Slay (second-round pick, Mississippi State). When it comes to receivers, plenty of focus is placed on 40 times and leaping ability, but the subtleties of route-running can sometimes be overlooked. Thompkins has struck us as a tactician in training camp, and this was a perfect example of that. It helped that Brady made a pre-snap adjustment after reading the defense, knowing he had Thompkins against man-coverage in a spot where the safety had a long way to go to help. Looked like a sharp pre-snap call by Brady, followed by an excellent throw. But it all started with Thompkins’ ability to get off the line cleanly.

4. On the play in which Sudfeld lost a fumble to end what had been a promising opening drive, the Patriots aligned both Sudfeld and Ballard to the right side of the line in a run-based look (YY wing). Receivers Aaron Dobson and Edelman were split wide to the left side. The Lions again had eight defenders in the box and when Brady executed a play-action to Stevan Ridley, the Lions’ linebackers had committed to the point that it opened a wide space between the linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field, which is what Sudfeld, up the seam, exploited. Everything about the play appeared to be perfectly executed ... except for the fumble. Some credit goes to Lions safety Glover Quin for jarring the ball free, but it still seemed as if Sudfeld could have tucked the ball away tighter.

5. One follow-up on Sudfeld: We’ve talked a lot about his pass-catching abilities, which look like they are at competitive NFL levels, but haven’t focused as much on his blocking and how that is probably the one area that calls for the most development. On the play in which Thompkins dropped a pass to end the Patriots’ second drive, Sudfeld, initially lined as a wingback on the left side was called upon to block fourth-year end Willie Young one-on-one. Young got him off balance and closed in quickly on Brady, speeding up Brady's clock to get rid of the football. For Sudfeld to be viewed as more of a pure tight end, as opposed to a receiver playing tight end, this is the area to focus on. On Brandon Bolden's 6-yard run with four minutes left in the quarter, Sudfeld had a nice seal block on end Jason Jones, showing he’s willing to mix it up.

6. Lions running back Reggie Bush is dangerous in space, as the Patriots experienced on his 67-yard catch-and run on third-and-10 with 9:18 left in the first quarter. The Patriots were in a dime package (6 defensive backs), with linebacker Jerod Mayo entering for his first play of the game along with Adrian Wilson, the safety who aligned to the left of Mayo in a linebacker-type role. Those were the two defenders who had the best chance to limit Bush’s yards after the catch, but both over-pursued toward the sideline, leaving Bush the inside part of the field to shake free. Safety Steve Gregory had blitzed as a fifth rusher off the defensive right side, forcing a quick release from quarterback Matthew Stafford, so between the blitz and the over-pursuit by Mayo and Wilson, it led to the big play. It looked like a good play-call by the Lions against the blitz, but still one that shouldn't have gone for 67.

7. End Rob Ninkovich looked like one of the team’s best defensive players, and a three-play series on the Lions’ second drive highlighted his versatility. On first down, he was unblocked off the left side as Stafford handed off to Bush, and Ninkovich brought down Bush -- who could have had an open cutback lane if Ninkovich hadn’t maintained his edge -- for a loss of minus-4 yards. On the next play, Ninkovich was dropping back into coverage (incomplete pass). Then on third down, he initially rushed, but when the ball was out quickly, he chased down Bush from behind and was credited with a tackle that forced a punt. Ninkovich wears Mike Vrabel’s old No. 50 jersey and the more you watch him, you can see some similarities. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be catching passes as a goal-line tight end next week.

8. Veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly is a powerful presence at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, and plays with what Bill Belichick described as “long levers.” On a “sudden change” situation, in which the Patriots’ defense had to stem the momentum after Bolden lost a fumble at the New England 19 with 3:21 remaining, Kelly simply powered his way through rookie right guard Larry Warford. Too powerful -- the veteran schooling the youngster on how it’s done. With Kelly on the interior, the Patriots have the potential to get more interior penetration in 2013. He looks like a decisive upgrade over last year’s co-starters Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love.

Snaps: RBs learn cost of fumbling

August, 23, 2013
DETROIT -- In tabulating the snaps played by skill-position players with the first-unit offense, one aspect stood out -- after losing fumbles, Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen didn't play again for the rest of the half.

Here is the breakdown of snaps played (includes penalties, not half-ending kneel-down):

QB Tom Brady -- 46 of 46
WR Julian Edelman -- 45 of 46
WR Aaron Dobson -- 31 of 46
WR Kenbrell Thompkins -- 31 of 46
TE Jake Ballard -- 27 of 46
RB Stevan Ridley -- 21 of 46
TE Zach Sudfeld -- 19 of 46
TE Michael Hoomanawanui -- 16 of 46
RB Shane Vereen -- 10 of 46
FB James Develin -- 9 of 46
RB Leon Washington -- 8 of 46
WR Josh Boyce -- 6 of 46
RB LeGarrette Blount -- 4 of 46
RB Brandon Bolden -- 3 of 46

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: Julian Edelman filled in for the hobbled Danny Amendola, playing every snap but the short-yardage fourth-and-1 run in the second quarter when the Patriots called on three tight ends and a fullback and running back. ... Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins opened the game in the two-receiver package, with Aaron Dobson coming on as the third receiver. The Patriots utilized the three-receiver package quite a bit, even turning to a four-wide look at times. ... At tight end, Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld opened as the top combination. Ballard has gradually upped his workload this preseason, with his 27 snaps a high. ... At running back, Stevan Ridley was the clear No. 1 option.

Rapid Reaction: Lions 40, Patriots 9

August, 22, 2013

DETROIT -- Rapid reaction from the the New England Patriots' 40-9 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field:

Ugly offensive football. This was a step back for the Patriots’ offense. When the clock reads 11:38 remaining in the second quarter, and a team already has three lost fumbles and thrown an interception, that pretty much says it all. Rookie free-agent tight end Zach Sudfeld and running backs Brandon Bolden (second year) and Shane Vereen (third year) had the fumbles, while the interception came on a Tom Brady-to-Aaron Dobson slant in which Dobson got caught up before getting to the spot. This performance had similarities to the Patriots' 34-10 loss to the Lions in the third preseason game in 2011. The Patriots went on to win 13 games that season, which is a reminder to keep preseason results in context.

Encouraging defensive football. If there was one positive that trumped all for the Patriots, it was the team’s situational defense. The Lions were 2-of-9 on third down in the first half when the top defense was on the field, and three of the stops came at the Patriots’ 5-, 19- and 13-yard lines. It could have been much worse for New England if the defense didn’t stiffen like it did (it was 16-3 Lions at halftime). Yes, it helped that the Lions were without receiver Calvin Johnson, but it’s also notable that the Patriots didn’t have starting defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (he was seen getting stretched out by the team’s strength coach before the game) and linebacker Jerod Mayo played only in the dime defense.

Brady’s preseason workload. Brady played the entire first half, totaling 46 snaps (including penalties, but not a half-ending kneel-down). He was sacked twice and threw the one interception. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the last we see of the Patriots quarterback this preseason, as he’s played a total of 87 preseason snaps -- 16 against the Eagles, 25 versus the Buccaneers and the 46 against the Lions. Brady had been nearly flawless entering this game (18-of-20); this performance wasn’t as decisive as we saw the team's promising young pass-catchers all have their struggles at times.

Amendola doesn’t suit up; Edelman fills his role. Receiver Danny Amendola remained home in Foxborough, not making the trip to Detroit. Amendola has been hobbled, but it is not known if his injury is to his ankle or foot. A source previously said that the Patriots don’t have long-term concerns with Amendola and he is fully expected to be ready to go Sept. 8 when the Patriots visit the Bills in the regular-season opener. In Amendola’s place, fifth-year receiver Julian Edelman played every snap in the first half except for a fourth-down, short-yardage run. He had three catches for 18 yards.

No action for Tebow. No. 3 quarterback Tim Tebow did not play, with Brady going the entire first half and No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett staying on for the second half. The crowd at Ford Field was chanting "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" in hopes of seeing him in the fourth quarter. Before the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Bill Belichick said he had an idea of about 80 percent of the team's 53-man roster. Tebow would seemingly fall in the other 20 percent, and with him not playing, there was no action to analyze to potentially sway the decision at this point.

Injury report. The Patriots had one significant injury -- rookie free-agent defensive tackle Cory Grissom left the game early in the fourth quarter and was having trouble putting pressure on his left leg as he was helped to the locker room. That is a position where the Patriots are thin depth-wise. ... Lions running Montell Owens, the former Maine Black Bear, injured his knee and did not return. Starting safety Glover Quin left in the first half with a hip injury and did not return.

Quick hits. Starting right guard Dan Connolly, who suited up for the first time coming back from offseason shoulder injury, played the team’s second, third and fourth series (11 snaps total). ... Starting safety Devin McCourty, who also suited up for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery, started and played the entire first half (16 snaps). ... The following players didn't suit up for the game. ... The Patriots got a long look at rookie free-agent defensive tackle Joe Vellano (Maryland), who started in place of Wilfork. ... Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who entered 2-of-5 on field goals (with misses from 44, 50 and 53 yards), converted on his lone attempt, a 31-yarder. ... Lions tight end Joseph Fauria, the nephew of former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, scored a touchdown in the third quarter and followed it with a patented Fauria spike through his legs. ... Summing this one up: One of the ugliest Patriots preseason games in recent memory.
DETROIT -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime of the New England Patriots’ preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, as the Patriots trail 16-3:

This one is pretty straightforward.

Terrible ball security by the Patriots, with three fumbles -- by rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, second-year running back Brandon Bolden and third-year running back Shane Vereen. Add in a Tom Brady interception on a pass intended for rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, and it was ugly.

On the Brady-to-Dobson interception, it’s one of those plays where it was difficult to decipher what mostly led to the end result. Could Dobson have fought through traffic? Could Brady, who appeared to be throwing to a spot, have made a better decision? Or was it simply good defense?

Regardless, this isn’t the type of offensive football the Patriots hoped to play. A team isn’t going to win many games, especially on the road, playing this sloppily.

One positive that coaches will probably see when they review the first half: Rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (drop) and Dobson both had a play or two that didn't go as planned, yet both showed toughness to come back and make some plays. That’s a big part of what the preseason is about, especially for rookies.

Still, the overall feel brought back memories of the Patriots’ third preseason game against the Lions here in 2011. That game wasn't pretty either. The Patriots went on to win 13 games that season, so it's a reminder to keep these games in their proper context.

Now for the defense.

If there was a primary positive in this game, it was the performance on third down. The unit stiffened when it had to and kept the Patriots in the game. It wasn’t all perfect -- running back Reggie Bush’s 67-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 was a big play to set up the Lions’ first field goal -- but that’s the overall type of effort required when the offense is having a tough day.

Yes, it helped that the Lions didn’t have receiver Calvin Johnson, who didn’t suit up. But it’s also worth noting that the Patriots didn’t have defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the field and that linebacker Jerod Mayo played only in the dime package.

No major injuries for the Patriots, who are expected to play their starters into the third quarter.

The Lions get the ball to open the third quarter.

Rapid reaction: Patriots 25, Bucs 21

August, 16, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots’ preseason game against the Buccaneers, a 25-21 Patriots win:

Brady doesn’t miss a beat. If there were any questions about quarterback Tom Brady and his injured left knee, they were answered with authority. In 12 pass attempts, there was just one incompletion (on a third-down throw to receiver Danny Amendola) as he carved up the Buccaneers’ defense on the team’s first drive, an impressive 15-play, 80-yard march that included a variety of formations and personnel groupings. Before the game, Brady was fired up as he entered for warm-ups, running from one end zone to the other and giving Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn a friendly fist bump. Clayborn, of course, had the bull-rush in Wednesday’s practice that pushed Patriots left tackle Nate Solder into Brady.

PatriotsBucsTop unit on defense produces four sacks. After a preseason opener in which the pass rush wasn’t as disruptive as desired, the Patriots swarmed against the Buccaneers, with the tone set by middle linebacker Brandon Spikes on the first play as he charged downhill and steamrolled running back Doug Martin to register a sack. Spikes added a second sack on the Buccaneers’ second drive, while ends Chandler Jones (nice rush against left tackle Donald Penn in which he got low and pushed Penn back) and Rob Ninkovich added sacks. If the pass rush can perform like that during the season, the Patriots’ D could be dangerous.

Amendola’s home debut a success. Playing the same role as Wes Welker in the team’s offense, free-agent signee Danny Amendola had a Welker-type performance (7 targets, 6 catches, 71 yards, TD). Here is one indication that reflects how the Patriots view Amendola as their No. 1 target: He was the lone receiver who played only the first two series (20 snaps). All other receivers were playing into the second half.

Sudfeld’s emergence continues. Patriots free-agent tight end Zach Sudfeld started and not only has he appeared to carve out a spot on the roster, he’s in position to contribute as the team’s “move” tight end. Sudfeld was on the receiving end of a thread-the-needle two-point conversion pass from Brady, and later made a very nice 22-yard touchdown grab on a Ryan Mallett pass that was tipped before Sudfeld showed excellent concentration and came down with it. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Sudfeld has a big catch radius, runs well and currently looks like the team’s best “move” tight end (the old Aaron Hernandez role).

Injury report. There were no major injuries for the Patriots, although second-unit right tackle R.J. Mattes was knocked out of the game with a right ankle injury. Mattes is a long shot to earn a roster spot, but the Patriots have been managing a shortage along the line for most of training camp and this is another hit to be accounted for.

Tough night for Tebow. For the second week in a row, No. 3 quarterback Tim Tebow played the entire second half. It was a tough passing performance for Tebow, who fired an errant, high pass to receiver Kenbrell Thompkins early in the fourth quarter that was intercepted. Tebow also skipped a throw up the right sideline on his first pass attempt. His best success came when he was running, but there weren't many highlights when he was in the game in the second half.

Quick hits. The emergence of rookie free-agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins continues. Thompkins played 36 first-half snaps (21 with Tom Brady in the game), compared to second-round draft choice Aaron Dobson, who had 17 first-half snaps (two with Brady). ... Defensive end Marcus Benard looks like he’s carving out a role for himself, as he was the first sub rusher to enter the game. That’s the role that Jermaine Cunningham opened the 2012 season playing. Cunningham is currently injured. ... Kickoff coverage was one downer for the Patriots, as they gave up returns of 63 and 40 yards.

Ups and downs for Patriots

August, 16, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, a look at those players whose performance was "up" in the New England Patriots' 25-21 victory over Tampa Bay, and those at the opposite end of the spectrum:


Danny Amendola: In 20 snaps played, he is targeted seven times and makes six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. The type of night we grew used to seeing from Wes Welker from 2007-2012.

New England PatriotsTom Brady :In command for the second week in a row, Brady shows no signs that his injured left knee will be a factor. With all the new faces on offense, the results look similar with him leading the charge.

Logan Ryan: One week after the rookie cornerback drops a relatively easy interception, he cashes in this week, with a 53-yard pick-6 of Mike Glennon.

Brandon Spikes: Linebacker is a tone-setter on defense. His steamrolling of Buccaneers running back Doug Martin to register a sack on the Buccaneers first play is impressive. Few players, if any, hit harder.

Zach Sudfeld: Rookie free-agent tight end snares a two-point conversion from Brady and makes an impressive 22-yard touchdown grab up the seam on a deflected pass from Ryan Mallett.


Ryan Allen: Rookie punter who had been challenging incumbent Zoltan Mesko has a touchback on a plus-50 attempt and then doesn't strike the ball as well as he desires on a 35-yard punt in the third quarter.

Logan Mankins: Left guard is penalized for a personal foul on the team's first drive, one of the only blemishes for the first-unit offense.

Tim Tebow: Quarterback doesn't generate positive momentum in the second half and throws an errant high pass that is intercepted.

Tavon Wilson: Holding penalty in the end zone in the second half gives the Buccaneers a new set of downs.

Kickoff coverage: Giving up returns of 63 and 40 yards in the first half isn't going to cut it.