With the start of the season have one game in it’s books, the rest of the league looks towards tomorrow for their first games. The Bills face off against the Patriots. On the Fansided side, BLD and Musketfire reached out to one another and traded a Q&A before tomorrows game. Here is what Joe Soriano, Musketfire’s Editor had to say about the Patriots.
1. Who on the Patriots, coming off of preseason, is someone that the Bills need to watch out for that might necessarily not be on our radar all ready?
I’m sure you guys have already heard a lot of the hype train regarding UDFAs Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld, and I’d say that most of it is legit. If those two aren’t on your radar, then they really should be. Sudfeld played a lot in the slot at Nevada, and he is a versatile weapon at tight end who is a great pass-catcher and has the ability to block with some added seasoning. With Stephon Gilmore out, Kenbrell Thompkins should have a quality regular season debut. If you want a really deep sleeper to watch for, then backup linebacker Dane Fletcher is worth a look. He won’t play much, but he should steal some snaps on third down and had a terrific preseason. He made PFF’s All-Preseason team, and Fletcher looks like a man on a mission after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
2. Where does Gronkowski stand at this point and is he expected to be back? If not, who is replacing him and how has he been?
Do yourself a favor and rule out Gronkowski for now, because it would be ridiculous for the Patriots to play him in Week 1. I expect him to return in Week 3, and playing him against the Bills or Jets is just too soon at this point. Zach Sudfeld will be the one replacing him, and I guess it’s time for me to go into some more detail on Sudfeld. This guy is legit, and he slipped through the cracks on draft day due to a severe knee injury in college. The man has worked hard to get back since then, and he had an amazing offseason in OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and in the preseason. He caught two big passes (touchdown and a two-point conversion) against the Bucs in Week 2, and Boston Globe beat writer Ben Volin called Sudfeld a “baby Gronk”. A scout told me that he believes Sudfeld is the next great thing at TE, and there is little doubt in my mind that the Bills will have to focus on Sudfeld.
3. What do the Bills need to do to upset the Patriots this week?
The Bills need to be able to throw the football deep and take advantage of a rather awful strong safety situation. The Pats have seemingly soured on Tavon Wilson, leaving Steve Gregory and Duron Harmon as their main options at SS. Gregory can’t cover, while Harmon was a head-scratcher as a third-round pick. He showed up well in training camp practices, but he was probably the worst performer on defense throughout the preseason. Stevie Johnson should get some mis-matches, but Manuel has to find guys like Robert Woods and T.J. Graham. The Bills need to spread the ball horizontally and vertically, and they need to get a couple of big runs from Spiller. It’s extremely difficult to run it against the Patriots, so the Bills will need Spiller’s playmaking jets on full force. I don’t see the Bills defense having a good day, so it will be up to the offense to put enough points on the board to beat out the Pats. This game should be another high-scoring affair between these two teams, which puts a strain on a rookie QB making his debut.
4. Is New England still feeling the effects of Tebowmania and how happy are you that Tebow is not on the roster?
Honestly, we’ve moved on from Tebow, and there was never really any Tebowmania among Pats fans. Most of that stuff was reserved to ESPN and the diehard Tebow followers. I’m glad he isn’t taking up space on the roster, because it’s all about having depth at key positions and keeping players who can have a legitimate role. Tebow most likely didn’t fit that, but I’m not actually glad that Tebow was cut. To me, it’s another “it is what it is” situation, but I did personally feel like it was best for the team to move on.
5. How does the secondary look this year facing off against Stevie Johnson and the explosive rookies, Woods and Goodwin?
The Bills are going to play Stevie Johnson in the slot in three-wide sets, and that does not bode well for Kyle Arrington, who would be at a severe size disadvantage. Arrington is the prototypical slot corner, whereas Johnson is anything but the norm for a receiver playing in the slot. If the Pats don’t get adequate safety help, then Johnson should eat Arrington up. But if you do bring in Devin McCourty on Johnson, that could possibly hurt the Pats on the outside. The Pats can either let one man beat them, or they can put pressure on Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and T.J. Graham to produce on the outside. Aqib Talib is a great press corner, but he gets beat against deep threats, so I expect him to cover Woods. I’m not sure that we’ll see much of Goodwin on the field, but his speed makes him somebody to watch for when he’s on the field. The Pats have enough talent in the secondary to cover the Bills, but that could become an issue if Alfonzo Dennard can’t play. Then I can see the Bills having significantly more success throwing the football.