ReFO: TB @ NE, Preseason Week 2
Tampa Bay tried to keep up with a New England offense beginning to gel. Steve Palazzolo reviews the second contest of the preseason for both the Bucs and the Patriots.
ReFO: TB @ NE, Preseason Week 2
The Rutgers Reunion Tour made a stop in Foxboro as 17 former Scarlet Knights find employment with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots, and that’s not even including Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano. After two days of joint practices, the two teams took to the field on Friday night with the Patriots’ starters getting the best of the Buccaneers in the first half. New England’s offense was in good rhythm while the defense showed a fierce pass rush that made it difficult for Tampa Bay to find theirs.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the key performances from the game.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Two games in, it looks like the Bucs have found a quality player in defensive tackle Akeem Spence. Working with the first team, he graded at at +1.8 after posting a +1.7 grade in Week 1. Spence showed well against both the run and pass as he notched two hurries on his 13 pass rushes, while picking up a stop in the running game. Playing the “tilt nose” position in Tampa Bay’s defense, Spence is asked to penetrate the backfield between the center and guard and he did it perfectly, picking up a pressure on center Ryan Wendell at the 14:30 mark of the first quarter. Spence got the better of their matchups in the run game as well, despite Wendell being our top rated run-blocking center in the league last year. At the 6:32 mark, Spence did a nice job of fighting off left guard Logan Mankins’ double team block and shedding Wendell to get back into the play and in on the tackle. Spence’s early play has been encouraging and if he keeps it up, he looks like a great complement to fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy who has already established himself as one of the league’s best.
Glennon Shows Improvement
After posting a disappointing -2.0 grade against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, QB Mike Glennon came back strong with a +2.1 effort against the Patriots. To start, it’s hard to ignore the worst pass of the game for either team, Glennon’s pick-6 thrown right into cornerback Logan Ryan’s hands. It was a horrible decision, and one that’s a game-changer in the regular season action, but other than that one bad play, Glennon was outstanding. His best throw came at the end of the first half as he hit WR Tiquan Underwood in stride on a post route for a 41-yard gain that set up a last-second field goal. He made a beautiful throw under pressure at the 1:36 mark of the third quarter as he hit tight end Danny Noble on an out route to convert a 3rd-and-11. With DE Justin Francis bearing down in him, Glennon got rid of the ball and put it in a perfect spot where only Noble could make the play. This play followed up one of Glennon’s more impressive throws despite the end result being an incompletion. With 2:28 to go in the third, Glennon targeted WR David Douglas on a post-corner route. Glennon showed off his arm as he made the throw look effortless despite throwing from the far hashmark against the Patriots’ cover-2 look. It’s one of the hardest throws for a quarterback to make, and even though the pass may have lead Douglas into the free safety a bit, it showed the type of deep ball potential that Glennon possesses. As was the case in college, Glennon needs to show consistency from week to week, but you can throw this outing in the “good” category.
Despite the Bucs establishing a solid running game in the second half, interior linemen Cody Wallace and Jace Daniels really struggled. They graded at -3.4 and -7.0 respectively as they were just unable to stay on blocks, particularly when run blocking. Daniels also surrendered two hits and two hurries on his 17 pass blocks. Both players saw some time at center, but neither was able to handle any of the nose tackles thrown at them from New England. For Wallace, this represents his second straight poor showing while Daniels had an average showing in Week 1. With preseason halfway over, both players need to bounce back strong to get back into the mix for backup roles for the Bucs.
New England – Three Performances of Note
One of the big questions coming into the season has centered on the Patriots’ ability to find a capable receiving corps, and if the preseason is any indication, it appears that QB Tom Brady (+2.0) has enough talent surrounding him to continue New England’s prolific passing game. The chemistry between Brady and free agent WR Danny Amendola (+2.7) is already evident and their 26-yard touchdown connection was Brady’s best throw of the day. It capped off a beautiful opening drive that featured a well-balanced mix of the running and short passing games, including four third-down conversions. After the Amendola touchdown, New England went for two and Brady found undrafted free agent tight end Zach Sudfeld (+1.3) in the back of the end zone for the conversion. According to reports coming out of training camp, this has been par for the course to this point for Sudfeld as he represents another new target for Brady. Throw in undrafted free agent WR Kenbrell Thompkins who played 47 of the Patriots 72 offensive snaps, and the new look is in full swing in New England.
Mixed Bag for Collins
With no first round pick in the 2013 draft, second round linebacker Jamie Collins was the Patriots’ top pick and many have wondered how they would use his versatile talent. He played a number of positions in college at Southern Miss and that’s continued to this point in the preseason. He played a traditional linebacker role in the first half, mostly in nickel sets, before moving to a rush linebacker role when the Patriots showed more 3-4 looks in the second half.
He graded at +1.9 in coverage and really showed off his explosiveness when breaking on balls in front of him. It was on display with 12 seconds remaining in the first half as Collins broke up a short in-route to tight end Tom Crabtree. He was also involved in the Patriots’ goal line stand early in the fourth quarter as he got in on back-to-back tackles on third and fourth down short passes, keeping the Bucs out of the end zone.
Despite the strong day in coverage, Collins had some issues in the running game. He was bull rushed right out of the play by Danny Noble at the 12:59 mark of the third quarter and later overshot his gap on a run near the end of the quarter. He still provided a highlight play that saw him fill the gap and make a tackle for loss that ended in a WWE-esque German suplex, but it appears there’s still some work to do with mastering run fits and getting stronger at the point of attack.
Forston Strong up Front
DT Marcus Forston put together his second straight solid game as he was a force at nose tackle when the Patriots went to more traditional 3-4 looks in the second half. Playing right over the center, he was unblockable in the running game, grading at +2.5 with three stops. He dominated both centers thrown at him by the Bucs as both Wallace and Daniels were unable to keep Forston from shedding and getting in on the play. The Patriots have played much more 4-3 the last two seasons, but with Forston showing so well in their old 3-4 two-gapping role, it could give them more flexibility during the regular season.
-For the second week in a row, CB Logan Ryan led the Patriots defense in snaps with 67. He’s now played 150 snaps (94 percent) through two games.
-Bucs RB Peyton Hillis picked up 50 of his 73 yards after contact.
-Patriots’ centers, Wendell and Matt Stankiewitch combined to grade at -4.6.
PFF Game Ball
WR Danny Amendola made the most of his 20 snaps as he caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Four of the six catches went for first downs.
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