Tom Brady believes in O-line
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday gave a vote of confidence to his embattled offensive line, a unit that struggled to protect him in the preseason and projects to start just one player at the same position he was at in Super Bowl XLVI.
"Whoever is out there is out there, and whoever's out there has earned that position. They've done what the coaches have asked them to do and there's a lot of confidence that they'll be able to do their job," Brady said.
The Brady Crunch
Tom Brady's lack of protection was a major story line during the preseason. The number of times he's been sacked has increased steadily since 2009.
Tom Brady last 3 seasons
Dropbacks Sacks Pct 2011 655 32 4.89 2010 521 25 4.80 2009 587 16 2.73 -- ESPN Stats & Information
"My focus is on quarterback and I've got enough to worry about as it is. It's not like I figured everything out the past four weeks either, so I've got to go out there and try to do what my role is and that's play quarterback. I let those guys really do what they do and they do a damn good job of doing that and playing offensive line."
The Patriots lost longtime starting left tackle Matt Light to retirement and are also without guard Brian Waters, who started every game for the Patriots last season but has yet to report to the team despite having a contract for 2012. The unit surrendered 10 sacks in the Patriots' four preseason games.
The first test for the new-look offensive line comes in Sunday's season opener against the Titans, who Brady says present a challenge in part because of their quick defensive front.
"I think they have good matchups. It's a very fast front that's very disruptive, so you don't have a lot of time to sit back there and evaluate what's going on," he said. "I think they mix in enough zone coverage with man coverage where it's really tough to anticipate."
One of the challenges for NFL teams during the opening week of the season is trying to prepare for a team with limited film exposure. Brady knows he'll likely see defensive wrinkles from Tennessee that have not yet shown up in preseason film.
"You have to deal with what you've seen because that's what they're working on and you have to deal with things that could come up because you understand that they're probably holding some things back," he said.
"But yeah, it's different than Week 15 when you have a whole season's worth of film on a certain team," he continued. "There are some things we're preparing for that we probably won't see and certainly there are things that they're doing that we haven't seen. That's just part of playing really early in the season."
Even with the element of surprise likely to come into play on Sunday, Brady's focus remains on the fundamentals and execution on the field.
"Ultimately it's going to come down to who executes the best," Brady said. "It's not the scheme; it's taking care of the football, who does better on third down and the red area, taking advantage of scoring and penalties, all the things that play into every game."
Despite throwing for a career-best 5,235 yards in 2011 and adding a perimeter threat in receiver Brandon Lloyd this offseason, Brady understands he and his offense are starting with a blank stat sheet Sunday.
"At the end of the day, you can make a bunch of predictions, but it really doesn't matter because you have to go out there and prove it," he said. "You say, 'How prepared are we?' or 'How prepared are we to this point?' Well, we'll know Sunday afternoon at about 4 o'clock. We'll see if all the work that we put in is really going to pay off."
And although the offense offers promise once again for 2012, Brady was limited in live action at training camp with both Lloyd and 2011 top target Wes Welker, who missed the team's final two preseason games.
"You don't know, but you have confidence that you can do it when it matters," he said. "Like I said, everything needs to be proven; it's not like the predictions you make on Wednesday all come true. You go out and every play is designed to score a touchdown. It doesn't necessarily mean that's what's going to be the case in the game, but (you try to) put together enough good plays and not negative plays and penalties and turnovers and things that play into complementary football, and that's getting everybody involved, whether it's Wes or the running backs or tight ends."
Field Yates is a regular contributor for ESPNBoston.com.
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