After sitting out the preseason opener in Washington and seeing a couple series of action last week against the Eagles, Tom Brady is ramping up his preparation this week in expectation of seeing significant playing time Friday night against the Panthers.
That playing time, which has extended into the third quarter of the third preseason game for Brady and New England's other starters in the past, will be seen on some level as a summertime measuring stick.
"This is a good game to gauge where you are at, because we're playing a really good team," Brady said of a Carolina squad that beat New England last regular season and sports a defense that ranked second in the NFL in both yards and points last season. "A great defense, one that we played last year and really struggled with at times. So this will tell us where we're at. We have to go out there and execute really well in order to move the ball down the field. They have some of the best linebackers, a very good secondary and a one of the best pass rushers in the league. So it's a good challenge and I think the guys are excited. This is a big week that we tried to make some improvements and we'll see if it pays off."
This week has also seen changes in the way the Patriots are practicing and preparing for the preseason action. New England no longer has the luxury of experiencing joint practice action against its upcoming opponent, as such there has been more traditional scouting of the matchup.
"I think this has been a good week of preparation for us," Brady relayed. "In the last two weeks we've had the opportunity to practice against both those teams, which you're kind of learning on the fly. We didn't do a lot of things leading up to those weeks because we figured three days of practice would get us familiar enough. But this week has been much more of a normal week. We've had scouting report meetings and talked about coverages and blitzes and third down and red area and two-minute and all the different situations that come up. This is a very unique team that is very good. We really got everything we could handle last year and this is one of the best defenses in the league. We're going to have to come out there and play really well and have the right plays on at the right time and try to go out and execute them as best we can."
While Brady seems intrigued to find out how he and his offense measure up against Carolina, he also has perspective as to the meaning of August action. It's really just another step in the process of laying a team's foundation and preparing for the regular season opener in Miami on Sept. 7.
"It's still a building process. It's still pretty early for us to figure out the dynamics of the team," Brady said of the overall work this summer. "The spring camps lead to training camp and training camp leads to good September. September leads to good October. You have to build the whole way through.
"There are no teams that are Super Bowl ready at this point. Probably some guys that probably think they are. But in my experience you have to be battle tested and you only do that through going out there and playing games and seeing what kind of team you're made of."
It's still just preseason action, albeit the ever over-hyped third game of preseason action, but Brady is expecting to take a step forward in the overall process Friday night.
"We've got two games left and they are both very important for our season, for our preparation leading up to the opener," Brady said. "So, Coach told us we're going to get a lot of work. What that means, I don't know. I don't think anyone ever knows with him. But we'll be prepared and ready to for 60 minutes. Hopefully it's a good 60 minutes. We've had a couple doozies in the third preseason game lately and it would be nice to have a good one."
Because Brady is well aware that expectations are high this time of year in New England. Those expectations are even higher this summer with the defensive additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to a returning cast of key, healthy veterans and developing young players.
"I think we've set a pretty high bar and I think that's what we're out here to achieve," Brady said of expectations in general. "That's what athletics are all about and competition at the highest level in the NFL brings out the best in everybody. So there is only one reason to play this game and that's to try to win every time you take the field. If you like that, then this is probably a good program for you. If you don't, you probably won't last long."