5 Patriots Who Need to Impress Against the Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Brady doesn't need to impress anyone with his play against the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night. He has proven it on the practice field during training camp and during his 13 seasons as the New England Patriots' starting quarterback.
Many of his teammates don't have the same luxury.
While some players—cornerback Logan Ryan, for example—are assured of their spots on the 53-man roster, they are fighting to show the coaching staff that they deserve to get the starting nod at their position. Others, like defensive end Michael Buchanan, are merely fighting for survival.
Here are five players who need to be on point against Philadelphia Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Buchanan, a second-year defensive end, accounted for a sack, a quarterback hit and four stops during his preseason debut against Washington. Those positive stats don't begin to tell the whole story.
Buchanan also racked up two missed tackles and two penalties. The biggest problem, however, didn't show up in the stat sheet.
"Doing your job" is of paramount importance in New England. Buchanan's inability to exhibit proper gap control has to be maddening to head coach Bill Belichick. No matter how many explosive plays Buchanan makes, Belichick won't be able to trust him with too much playing time if he can't be counted on to execute his assignment.
Buchanan has a chance to prove that he can stay true to his job against the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles offense.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan was the No. 2 cornerback in the league—behind only Richard Sherman—when looking at the quarterback rating of those throwing in his direction. So far this preseason, he hasn't lived up to that lofty form.
Darrelle Revis has one cornerback spot locked up, but the Robin to his Batman is still up for grabs, especially in Brandon Browner's absence. The newly acquired corner will miss the first four games due to a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.
If Ryan wants to strap on the utility belt and ride in the Batmobile, he'll need to show that he can avoid a sophomore slump against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce
With Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola seemingly firing on all cylinders, and Aaron Dobson off the physically unable to perform list and working his way back into Brady's good graces, targets are about to become scarce in New England.
Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins are going to need to do things perfectly to make the 53-man roster, let alone get balls thrown their way. Boyce's offside penalty against the Washington Redskins is a prime example of the careless play that gets to Belichick. Thompkins has had similar instances this offseason.
Mike Reiss from ESPN.com details one such hiccup: "Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was told to leave one drill by Bill Belichick when an official threw a penalty flag on him for an unknown reason before the snap. Belichick was not happy with Thompkins."
With Dobson not 100 percent yet, this is the time for the other second-year receivers to shine. If they don't do it now, they might not get a chance later.
Nate Solder, thought to be the foundation of the New England Patriots offensive line in the post-Dante Scarnecchia era, didn't have a normal performance against the Washington Redskins. Per Pro Football Focus, on 17 pass-block attempts, Solder gave up a sack, a hit and committed one penalty. Linebacker Brian Orakpo made him look pretty bad on multiple occasions.
While it is just a preseason game, that is not the performance you want to see out of the man protecting Brady.
With Scarnecchia out of the picture, Solder is going to need to continue to develop his game under new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. There is no better time to start than against the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night.