When the Patriots take the Gillette Stadium field Thursday (8:25 p.m., WCVB-5, NFLN) for the first time this regular season, they’ll do so without some key players on offense.
Just three days ago, the Pats squeaked by the Bills, 23-21, but not without the depth of their offense taking a big hit.
Shane Vereen broke a bone in his wrist that required surgery and forced the Patriots to put him on short-term IR.
Danny Amendola re-aggravated a groin injury, and while he eventually returned and played extremely well, he may have made the injury even worse in the long run.
And rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld pulled a hamstring, leaving the Patriots with just one tight end in Michael Hoomanawanui as Rob Gronkowski is still recovering from forearm and back surgery.
How the Pats adjust to these injuries is one of a few things to look for this week.
1. Who steps up on offense?
The Pats can still make due with who they have. Vereen’s role grew once Stevan Ridley was benched for fumbling. The team will probably put the ball back in Ridley’s hands again Thursday night, and assuming he doesn’t fumble away his second chance, the running game should be OK. Julian Edelman was also a huge factor Week 1, and having been with Tom Brady for five seasons, should see the ball even more this week. Kenbrell Thompkins saw 14 targets last week, and while he only hauled in four of them, it’s clear Brady likes looking his way.
2. Quick turnover
After Sunday’s less-than-stellar performance, you can bet Bill Belichick would have loved to work on a few things in practice. But playing Thursday didn’t allow for it. The team had a walkthrough on Tuesday, and an off-day Wednesday. In order to improve, they’ll have to really hit the books hard against a Jets team looking to prove everybody wrong.
“We’re going to need to be better than we were last week,” Brady said. “There’s a lot to prepare for in a very short amount of time, so we’re trying to get everyone to understand that.”
3. Another rookie QB
Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel threw two TDs, wasn’t sacked, and didn’t throw an interception against the Patriots defense. They’ll face another rookie QB Thursday in Geno Smith. With a banged up offense, it’s a perfect opportunity for the Pats defense to take charge and prove they can win a grind-it-out, low-scoring game. My, how times have changed.