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Notebook: Pats locked and loaded for Buccaneers

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The fall weather arrived in Foxborough this week and with it, the feel of football is in the air and what a perfect time for it, as the Patriots get ready to face the Buccaneers in one of the most-hyped games of the 2021 season.

"Of course, they won a Super Bowl last year," said Davon Godchaux of the Bucs. "They have a lot of great players on their offense. We just have to come out prepared. I think we've been doing a great job the last three days, starting Wednesday at practice, preparing for those guys and just getting ready to rock 'n' roll on Sunday. Like I said it's going to be a good one and we look forward to it."

After a 1-2 start, the Patriots are still searching for their identity in 2021, something that shouldn't be all that surprising given the number of new faces and young players who have been incorporated into the attack.

Yes, every year the faces change, sometimes more than other, but the expectations remain the same.

"We know what the standard is here," said running back Damien Harris. "We know what it takes to be a New England Patriot. We know what this organization demands. All the guys that are here, we try to live up to that standard the best we can. Every day we show up to work and we know what's expected of us.

"It's been a good week for us, we've got a tough team a tough challenge coming up this Sunday, everybody's been coming in this week with the mindset to live up to that standard. That way this Sunday we'll be ready to play our best football."

Five Points of Emphasis vs. Bucs

  1. Get Brady Off the Spot: Patriots fans are familiar with how things look in those rare games where Tom Brady isn't on fire from stop to finish. Most often it involves having an interior pass rush that wins up the middle throughout the game (See Tuck, Justin; Super Bowls 42, 46). Christian Barmore is an intriguing piece of this potential approach. He's already shown what a handful he can be for just one blocker. Usually the Patriots like their two-gappers up front to hold the line or "build the wall", but if there was ever a week where employing a more attacking approach makes sense, this is it. Only it can't really be done with more than four rushers and those coming off the edge really don't have much chance. Overloading the interior, whether it's with two inside linebackers in the A gaps, or moving Matt Judon inside on passing downs, the Patriots defense must try to keep Brady uncomfortable. Obviously, it's a huge task and one that's hard enough to do for a single possession much less an entire game.
  2. Attack the Perimeter: Statistically, the Bucs defense has some areas to potentially target, mainly in their secondary against the pass. Despite being 27th in points and 29th on third down, it's hard to believe the fledgling Patriots offense is ready at this point to exploit them, but going right after them seems like a must. Dallas made a concerted effort to get the ball out quick and attack horizontally in Week 1 and had success. That helps take the strength of the Bucs defense, the front seven, out of the equation somewhat. Getting the ball out quickly and into the hands of the playmakers in space makes a lot of sense.
  3. Play Loose, Fast and Aggressive: What do the Patriots really have to lose this weekend? Despite the hype, this is still a Week 4 matchup against an NFC South team, albeit the defending Super Bowl champs. Those picking New England to win are few and far between and that's why the Patriots need to fully embrace the underdog role and play with reckless abandon. Go for it on fourth down. Fake punts. Trick plays. Anything that puts pressure on the Bucs coaching staff and communication should be part of the gameplan. Play loose, play fast and let the chips fall where they may.
  4. Switch It Up: What could the Patriots throw at the Bucs that they haven't seen yet? Replacing James White will force some kind of change, whether it's Rhamondre Stevenson or J.J. Taylor getting more involved. But what about N'Keal Harry, could he be activated? Or perhaps bringing up a practice squad defensive back like Myles Bryant to help as they stack the secondary? Brady's seen it all, but the Patriots need to make the most of their personnel this week, perhaps employing them in new ways.
  5. 60 minutes down to the millisecond: Everyone's seen enough Tom Brady comebacks to know that no lead is safe and that's why if the Patriots are to pull off the upset, they're going to need an entire game's-worth of solid play. They must come with energy and then sustain it throughout the game, despite the ups and downs. That kind of consistency has been missing through three weeks, but this is a great week to finally discover it.

Practice & Injury Report

The Patriots moved inside of Gillette Stadium for their final practice of the week with all except James White once again accounted for. J.C. Jackson was a new addition to the injury report as the Patriots have eight players listed as questionable. Meanwhile, the Bucs listed Rob Gronkowski as Doubtful and Jason Pierre-Paul as Questionable.

New England Patriots
Table - Injury report
Player Injury Game status
James White was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 4th round (130th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft.
James White
Hip Out
Henry Anderson, 29, was originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round (93rd overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Stanford. He spent his first three NFL seasons in Indianapolis before being traded to the N.Y. Jets on April 28, 2018, in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. He was released by the Jets on March 3, 2021. The 6-foot-6, 301-pounder has played in 74 career regular season games with 43 starts over six seasons with the Colts (2015-17) and N.Y. Jets (2018-20). He has totaled 167 tackles, 11½ sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and eight passes defensed, while blocking four kicks (two field goals, one extra point and one punt). Last season with New York, Anderson played in all 16 games with eight starts and posted a career-high 42 tackles with a half-sack and one blocked punt.
Henry Anderson
Ankle Not_Listed
Ja'Whaun Bentley was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fifth round (143rd overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Ja'Whaun Bentley
Shoulder Questionable
Trent Brown, 27, is a veteran of six NFL seasons with San Francisco (2015-17), New England (2018) and Las Vegas (2019-20). The 6-foot-8, 380-pounder originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick (244th overall) by San Francisco out of Florida in the 2015 NFL Draft. Brown was acquired by New England in a trade with San Francisco on April 27, 2018, and signed with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent on March 13, 2019. Brown has played in 63 regular season games with 60 starts in his career and all three playoff contests with New England in 2018. Brown has started at both right tackle and left tackle during his career. Over two seasons with the Raiders, Brown started all 16 games he played at right tackle. After earning his first Pro Bowl selection in 2019, he was limited to five games in 2020.
Trent Brown
Cal Questionable
Folk, 35, played in seven games for the Patriots last season and made 14-of-17 field goals and all 12 extra points. In the postseason, Folk made two field goals and converted on his only extra point attempt. The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder was signed by the New England Patriots as a free agent on Oct. 30, 2019. Folk originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick (178th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Arizona in the 2007 NFL Draft. Folk is a veteran of 12 NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2007-09), New York Jets (2010-16), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017) and the Patriots in 2019. He has played in 161 regular-season games and converted 259-of-322 field-goal attempts and 354-of-358 extra-point attempts for 1,131 career points. He has also appeared in five postseason contests and made 5-of-6 field-goal attempts and all 11 extra-point tries. Folk earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie in 2007 and was selected to the Pro Football Writer’s All-Rookie team that season.
Nick Folk
Left Knee Questionable
Kyle Van Noy, 29, was signed by the New England Patriots as a free agent on March 19, 2021. He is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with Detroit (2014-16), New England (2016-19) and Miami (2020). He played for the Patriots from 2016 through the 2019 season after joining the team in a trade with Detroit on Oct. 25, 2016. Van Noy was part of two Super Bowl Championship teams with the Patriots. He was waived by Miami on March 10, 2021. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder originally entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick (40th overall) by Detroit in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Brigham Young. He was traded to New England from Detroit on Oct 25, 2016, and signed with Miami as an unrestricted free agent on March 21, 2020. In seven NFL seasons, Van Noy has played in 95 games with 65 starts and has accumulated 348 tackles, 23½ sacks, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 16 passes defensed. In addition, he has scored touchdowns on a 29-yard blocked punt return, a 46-yard fumble return and a 22-yard fumble return. Last season with Miami, Van Noy started in 13-of-14 games that he played and finished with 69 total tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and six passes defensed.
Kyle Van Noy
Groin Questionable
Isaiah Wynn was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Isaiah Wynn
Knee Questionable
Kyle Dugger was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round (37th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Kyle Dugger
Hamstring Questionable
Josh Uche was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round (60th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Josh Uche
Back Questionable
J.C. Jackson was re-signed by the New England Patriots as a restricted free agent on April 16, 2021. Signed by the New England Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 11, 2018.
J.C. Jackson
Knee Questionable

Quotes of Note

Damien Harris on James White, who was moved to IR on Friday:

"James is a special guy. We all know it. It's that simple, he's a special player, special teammate, special leader. I think that James has been so impactful to this organization obviously he's been a cornerstone for this organization and what this program has done for most of the time he's been here. He's a tough guy, you hate to see what happened to him but at the end of the day everybody's gotta step up."

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