Perry: What to watch for in Brady's first game since Super Bowl
What to watch for in Brady's first game since Super Bowl
Tom Brady said he wants to play against the Eagles. He's said it multiple times in the last few days, actually. And as far as he knows, that's the plan.
"I mean, I think the plan’s always to play," he said Tuesday. "Whether I do or don’t is up to Coach [Bill Belichick] but yeah, I certainly plan on being out there."
Brady's playing time at this point in the summer over the years has been a little erratic.
He played 16 snaps in Week 2 of the preseason last year after sitting out the opener. In 2016, he rested in Week 2 but saw time in Weeks 3 and 4 as he faced a four-game suspension to start the regular season. In 2015, he got seven plays in the team's second game. In 2014, he got 23 plays. In 2013, he saw 25. So in the last five years, he's averaged 14.2 plays in Week 2 of the preseason.
How much will he play? How will he look? What will his interactions be like with teammates and coaches?
Plenty of internet space has been spent analyzing every aspect of Brady's life and his future since Super Bowl 52 so with a game on tap Thursday night why not analyze every aspect of what happens with Brady on the field?
Here's what we'll be looking for from the 41-year-old, starting with his playing time.
1. HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
By this point in the summer, the Patriots have typically had at least a couple of camp practices against another team, if not several. They haven't had that this year. I think Brady's first preseason action carries a little more weight because of that. If he could get a full quarter of play under his belt, if he could find a rhythm, if he could get a feel for what it will be like to get in and out of a handful of series with a new set of offensive teammates, that would qualify as a productive evening -- almost regardless of his performance.
2. HOW'S HE FEELING
Brady was reportedly dealing with back soreness, which helped keep him out of the preseason opener. How does the back look against Philly if he plays? He's looked unencumbered during his last two practices, showing no trepidation when it comes to uncorking passes deep down the field. But the red jerseys are off Thursday. Should he take a hit, how does he bounce back up from off the turf? The number of hits Brady took as a 40-year-old were a weekly storyline. That won't go away now that he's another year older.
3. IS HE PINPOINT?
When I said Brady looked "rusty" early in camp that gained some traction. The reason? a) It's Brady and b) Brady missed most of the team's spring workouts. That's the nature of the beast early in camp, though. Since then? He's been better. Shocker. But not perfect. When he punted a football into the stands the other day, he missed James White high and wide on a play where the timing was screwy. I have very little doubts in Brady's ability to hit the targets he should hit when he should hit them, but Thursday provides an opportunity for him to show against different defensive personnel that he still has MVP-level accuracy.
4. CHEMISTRY PROJECT
What may mess with Brady's production Thursday is just how well he and his receivers are synched up. Are newer players like Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker seeing the defense the same way Brady does? Are routes as precise as Brady wants them? And if they're not, which they inevitably won't be 100 percent of the time, can Brady then adjust to make the best of a bad situation? Brady was criticized for much of the spring for not showing up to many of the workouts he typically frequents. If the connection with his receivers (other than Decker, who just got here) seems at all off, people will point to those missed workouts and say, "See!" -- right or wrong.
5. SIDELINE DEMEANOR
This may be harder for those at home to soak up, but how Brady handles the breaks between series will be interesting to watch. Does he pull players aside for impromptu tutorials -- as he's done with Decker the last couple of weeks? Is his head stuck in the all-22 photos Josh McDaniels has chosen to highlight? Is he leaning on Brian Hoyer, his friend and not his competitor, for information? Does he look like he's pressing? Is he relaxed? Is he enjoying it? I'm not a fan of breaking down body language, but we'll be watching closely all the same. If we can pick apart his tone in an interview with Jim Gray or Oprah, we should do the same with how he handles his business on the field, should we not?