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Pats-Bucs Pre-game Notes

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Shane Vereen had a great game last week against the Eagles, but Vereen and the Patriots' other running back could struggle against the Buccaneers tough front seven. Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.
Shane Vereen had a great game last week against the Eagles, but Vereen and the Patriots' other running back could struggle against the Buccaneers tough front seven. Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

After a week of joint-practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots are ready for their preseason game on Friday. While the preseason doesn’t provide all the answers for a team, it does provide some insight. Here’s what to watch for on Friday night.

Is Brady okay?

There was a brief scare on Wednesday when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury. Recent reports indicate that the injury is minor and that Brady could play on Friday. While Brady will want to play, it would be wise for Bill Belichick to rest him and make sure his knee is fine. Brady needs to be ready for the regular season, not the preseason. The missed reps with the young wideouts won’t be a huge deal as Brady and company have already put in a good amount of work.

Young wideouts

Speaking of the young wide-receivers, it will be interesting to watch how the trio of Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins follow up their rookie debuts. While they only combined for eight catches, they all showed that they were comfortable with the offense. Zach Sudfeld also showed up last week at Philadelphia, and continues to line up with the first-team offense, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

More Jamie Collins

Does Collins see more playing time with Brandon Spikes missing practice on Tuesday? That remains to be seen. The Patriots top draft pick in 2013 has had a quiet preseason, though many observers have noted his knack for turning over the ball. Collins is much more athletic and fluid than the heavy-hitting Spikes and could be the starter next year if Spikes leaves in free agency. Collins wasn't perfect against the Eagles, and only played with the second-team defense.

Secondary concerns?

Last Friday, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, and Devin McCourty all did not play against the Eagles. It looks like it could be the same story this Friday, leaving the defensive backfield thin. The secondary really struggled, especially against Michael Vick. Vick was almost flawless, hooking up on a beautiful 47-yard touchdown pass with DeSean Jackson. While a lackluster pass rush also hurt against the Eagles starters, the secondary was out of position on most plays and had a tough time communicating throughout. Vincent Jackson is a hard matchup and will present the Patriots secondary with similar problems on Friday.

Running game

The Patriots masterfully ran all over the Eagles defense in their first game, with LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley leading the way while Shane Vereen was impressive in the passing game. The three-headed attack will not have the same success going against the top ranked run defense from 2012. The two units could get into a chess match during the game, and perhaps the Patriots show more multiple-back looks to combat the Bucs heavy front seven.