Patriots hopefuls begin sweating it out in hot Tampa temperatures
By John Ingoldsby
August 11, 2007
TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Football moved from training camp in Foxboro to a steamy
stadium in Florida, where Patriots hopefuls got on a real field to begin sweating
it out to make the team.
Quick first impressions from the opening preseason game Friday night against
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are:
Matt Cassel being Brady-esque in spreading the ball around to numerous receivers
in leading a touchdown drive on his first series of the year.
Adalius Thomas coming up as big as advertised by harassing quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Josh McCown on three separate occasions.
Brandon Meriweather means business, as he delivers punishing and prolonged
tackles in bring down the ball carrier, while also showing some "U"
attitude in jawing with a receiver.
Sammy Morris, who scored the Patriots lone TD in a 13-10 loss, is a solid back
with great hands, nice combination for both toting and catching the pigskin.
|Running back Lionel Gates #28 rushes for the corner against
Le Kevin smith of the New England Patriots at Raymond James Stadium on August
10, 2007 in Tampa, Florida. Gates fumbled on the play and the Bucs won 13
- 10. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
In a game with no Moss and no Maroney, Tom Brady and the first team played
two series, before giving way to Cassel and company.
Brady looked fine in finding Kevin Faulk early and often for rushing and receiving,
including a nice screen and a nifty catch down around ankles. However, Brady
did miss an open Wes Welker on first down and showed his frustration with his
hands on his helmet and shaking head, as if it were a real game. He also had
screen pass knocked down by Bucs No 1 pick James Adams, a defensive end.
For those on the Cassel watch, his first action may have been the highlight
of the night. After nearly being intercepted on his first pass that he floated
in the right flat, the career backup then began to distribute ball like Brady,
including two to Kelly Washington, as well as completions to Jabar Gaffney,
Reche Caldwell, and Bam Childress. After missing an open Washington, Cassel
made a nice scramble to set up a QB keeper for first down to end first quarter.
He later limped a bit and was checked on the sideline, but came back in to complete
the first half.
During the drive, Sammy Morris had three bruising runs in a row, ending with
On defense, Randall Gay started and showed himself to be a shutdown corner,
but against the run, as he made two nice stops. Ellis Hobbs started at the other
corner, and they were later replaced by the tandem of Meriweather and Tory James.
Veteran Mike Vrabel made his patented spin move and stuck with it to sack QB
Josh McCown, followed on the very next play by Mike Wright surging up the middle
to make another sack to force a field goal.
On the defensive down side, Adalius' aggressiveness was exploited when he invaded
the backfield on a draw play, and was frozen in place as Cadillac Williams ran
Also, rookie linebacker Oscar Lua seemed to be constantly in the middle of
the action, both good and bad. The USC product was pursuing the Bucs receiver
across the middle on Tampa Bay's 11-yard TD, but he later leveled a ball carrier
over the middle.
Another rookie LB, Justin Rogers from SMU, also made quite an impression with
a sack and multiple tackles. Other noticeable rookie plays were made by:
Mike Richardson nearly making an interception on an athletic knockdown at the
goal line of a long pass;
|Wide receiver Chad Lucas #15 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
battles cornerback Mike Richardson #35 of the New England Patriots for a
pass at Raymond James Stadium on August 10, 2007 in Tampa, Florida. The
Bucs won 13 - 10.(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith forcing a fumble;
Kareem Brown downing a runner 20 yards downfield;
QB Matt Gutierrez hitting receiver Chris Dunlap for a good gain; and,
Running back Clinton Smith picking up nice yardage on one run.
But in the end it was the Bucs game as they drove the length of the field for
a game-winning field goal on the final play. A meaningless score, but a meaningful
game, especially for the newcomers who will continue to sweat, no matter where
they are playing.
NOTES: Bam Childress got his bell rung on a punt return when his facemask
was grabbed, and then his helmet was knocked off by a separate hit
stalwart Mike Alstott looked good on the sidelines, a day after going on IR
with a neck injury
Cassel showed his arm when he uncorked a long bomb to Caldwell, which was an
Gemara Williams made a speedy kickoff return to
the 35-yard line ... Mel Mitchell made a strong QB sack on a safety blitz
Newcomers Marcellus Rivers and Dante Wesley each made their presence known
Quite a contrast seeing Walt Coleman refereeing in the heat compared with Patriots
fans frozen image of him making the tuck rule call in the Snow Bowl.
John Ingoldsby has covered the New England Patriots for various publications
the past 13 years. He started covering the NFL for newspapers in the 1970s.
John is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. You can find
him on the Patriots
Insider boards under the handle Rudiee.
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