Brady eager to see new-look Pats open at Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Tom Brady is as curious as anyone in wanting
to see the New England Patriots unveil their new-look group of
receivers at Buffalo on Sunday.
"There are always challenges to really determine what kind of team
you're going to be like," Brady said. "The mental toughness, the work
ethic, the core principles and fundamentals of the game have not been
tested under game conditions.
"That's what it's all about," the quarterback added. "We all are
excited to see where we're at."
The Patriots are coming off a tumultuous offseason that left numerous
holes in the NFL's top-ranked offense last year. And that's not
including New England's brief flirtation with Tim Tebow, who was cut
Many of Brady's familiar security blankets are gone (Wes Welker,
Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez) or injured (tight end Rob Gronkowski). The four accounted for 3,548 yards receiving and 26
touchdowns last year.
In their place is a group of newcomers led by free agent Danny Amendola.
The Bills have a brand new look to them, too, after an offseason
overhaul — the latest in the team's bid to become relevant again after
missing the playoffs for 13 straight years.
Doug Marrone is the new coach, and he's brought in an up-tempo
philosophy on offense, led by first-round pick E.J. Manuel at quarterback.
"I'd be lying if I'm sitting here saying I don't expect him to do great
things," Marrone said.
Here are five things to look out for from the game:
BRADY AT THE HELM: For all the changes the Patriots
went through, they're still led by Brady, who enters his 14th season.
And when it comes to facing the Bills, Brady has been nearly unbeatable
since taking over in 2001.
Over that span, Brady has a 20-2 record against Buffalo, during which
he's thrown 51 of his 334 career touchdowns.
"Same old, same old," Bills veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams
said. "Everything is going to revolve around No. 12 (Brady) and what he
does. ... We know affecting him is the best way to beat this team."
EJ'S DEBUT: Manuel will become the Bills' first
rookie quarterback to start Week 1 directly out of college since Joe Ferguson in 1973.
Selected 16th overall out of Florida State, Manuel was the only
quarterback drafted in the first round. The strong-armed and mobile
player showed encouraging signs through training camp before hurting
his left knee in a 20-16 preseason win over Minnesota on Aug. 16.
Manuel returned to practice Sunday after missing two weeks.
"I definitely feel like I'm caught back up," he said. "I wouldn't play
the game if I didn't feel like I was ready to go.
BANGED-UP BILLS: Though Manuel's healthy, the Bills
have dealt with a string of setbacks over the past two weeks.
Top cornerback Stephon Gilmore (broken wrist) is out. Pro Bowl safety
Jairus Byrd's status is uncertain. He's bothered by a sore foot and
also missed nearly the entire offseason before signing his franchise
tender two weeks ago. Buffalo even had to scramble to sign kicker Dan Carpenter this week after rookie Dustin Hopkins strained his groin in
LEARNING ON THE FLY: The Patriots and Bills are
both expecting much out of their young receivers. The Patriots feature
three rookies: Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins.
The Bills are raw at the position, too, behind returning starter Stevie Johnson. Second-round pick Robert Woods and speedster Marquise Goodwin,
a third-rounder, are being counted on along with second-year player
T.J. Graham to make an immediate impact. Johnson isn't worried. The
ever-colorful receiver opened the week with a big boast.
"I don't think (the Patriots) have got nobody to stop me," Johnson said.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick shrugged off Johnson's comment.
"We can't really worry about what they're doing," Belichick said.
"We'll try to be ready on Sunday."
PETTINE PRESSURE: The Bills will unveil a new-look
defense under new coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine has introduced an
aggressive, attacking style that will lean heavily on star pass-rusher
Mario Williams and newly acquired defensive end Jerry Hughes to disrupt
Belichick and Brady are familiar with Pettine, who spent the previous
four seasons in the same position with the Jets.
"This year, Buffalo looks like the Jets, schematically," Belichick
said. "Yes, blitz pickup will be definitely something we need to work
on this week."
The Patriots are hoping to add more pressure to their defense after
finishing 17th in the NFL with 37 sacks last season. They signed
free-agent defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Defensive end Chandler Jones —
who played under Marrone at Syracuse — is healthy after being bothered
by an ankle injury last season.
Five Points: Patriots - Bills
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