The big question heading into the season opener revolves around what the Patriots plan to do in order to compensate for the loss of DE Richard Seymour.
Will they stay with a 3-4 or move to a 4-3? The Patriots more than likely have enough depth to do both, but the decision moving forward will depend on who makes the proper adjustments.
Can Jarvis Green be a full-time starter? He's filled that role in the past, but never for 16 games. Also, how will Mike Wright fit into the equation? The strength of this defense has always been at the line of scrimmage, and for the Patriots to maintain their formula for success they can't afford to lose battles in the trenches.
The coaching staff won't reveal its plans yet, but rest assured they'll switch things up not only on Monday against Buffalo but for the remainder of the season depending on the opponent. Perhaps now more than ever we'll see that defensive line depth put to the test.
--G Kendall Simmons signed a three-year deal with the Patriots, including a base salary of $620,000 this season, according to published reports. Simmons could be counted on to fill Russ Hochstein and Billy Yates' spots in the Patriots interior line. Hochstein was traded to the Denver Broncos and Yates was released in the final roster cuts.
--OL Dan Connolly was not spotted at the beginning of practice Wednesday, when members of the media are allowed on the field. Connolly was one of the few surprises to make the final roster. His presence in the offensiv eline rotation will be counted on as the season wears on. Connolly is listed as questionable with a back issue for Monday Night.
--S Matthew Slater, who is nursing a left arm injury, was also not on the practice field Wednesday during media participation. His status for Monday is in jeopardy.Slater did n ot participate in practice all week and is listed as Out (elbow).
--TE Chris Baker was absent from the media portion of practice Wednesday. Baker should be available Monday against Buffalo. Baker was not listed on the team's injury report through Friday.
--DL Myron Pryor was not on the field during media availability at practice Wednesday. He was listed as DNP (Did Not Participate) on the team's injury report Thursday and returned to practive Friday (Limited). He is listed as questionable for Monday's season opener.
WHAT TO WATCH
GAME PLAN: The first thing the Patriots need to do is decide on how they're going to stack their defensive line, because pressuring the quarterback takes on even more importance this week with Buffalo's addition of Terrell Owens.
The Patriots no longer have Asante Samuel or Ellis Hobbs and this is a tough week to break in a new set of cornerbacks considering Owens' ability to single-handedly take over games, so the pressure falls on the linemen up front to prohibit Buffalo's offense from executing deep passes.
On the flipside, the Patriots should come out with all their guns blazing now that they have Tom Brady back behind center. This offense is loaded and it could be 2007 all over again. Will the Patriots shatter their own scoring and touchdown records? Probably not, but their strength is their offense, so they need to get on the board early and often. The best way to do that is go vertical and don't look back.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills DE Aaron Schobel vs. Patriots LT Matt Light. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this case, we're presented with one of the classic matchups every time the Bills face New England. Over the years, this matchup has gone back and forth. Schobel had his way with Light early, but New England's veteran tackle has leveled the playing field in recent years. With so much riding on Brady's shoulder, he needs to keep Schobel under wraps.
Patriots CB Shawn Springs vs. Bills WR Terrell Owens. This is the mother of all matchups. Owens didn't play much during the preseason, so it's unclear how the Bills will utilize him, but here's a hint: They're going to ask him to catch a lot of passes. Springs also is lacking from on-field participation this summer, mainly due to injury. Can the Patriots trust him -- and his fellow defenders -- to shut down one of the game's most dangerous receivers? We'll find out Monday.
Bills LB Paul Posluszny vs. Patriots RB Sammy Morris. There's a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Patriots' running back situation. Can Laurence Maroney return to his pre-2008 form and does Fred Taylor have enough left in the tank? These are legitimate questions, so in the meantime Morris might be the answer to their problems. On the flipside, Posluszny is a stout run-stopper, so if the Patriots are going to get something going on the ground, they'll need Morris' legs and the brawn of their offensive line to carry the load. This should be a good matchup.
INJURY IMPACT: Slater's injury affects the Patriots' performance on special teams, though his struggles last year and in camp this summer might make this is a blessing in disguise. Slater has the speed, but has never put it to good use. The Patriots are also monitoring WR Julian Edelman and CB Terrence Wheatley, who are expected to play important roles this year. The same goes for Pryor, who may be asked to help fill the void left by Seymour's departure. The offensive line is deep enough to withstand an injury to Connolly or Rich Ohrnberger, but the defense will need those banged-up players on the field as soon as possible.
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