When the Buffalo Bill fired Turk Schonerta week ago, that made three the number of offensive coordinators who lost their jobs before the start of the regular season (Kansas City and Tampa Bay were the others).
The move came as even more of a surprise for the Bills as they were implementing a new, no-huddle style offense, which had struggled to score points this summer. The Bills are also doing so with a reworked offensive line featuring two rookie starters.
"You don't know what to expect, but our coaches have done a lot of research on the Buffalo Bills," linebacker Jerod Mayosaid. "So, I feel they'll have a game plan ready for us."
"We can't pay attention to that," nose tackle Vince Wilforksaid of all the changes in Buffalo. "You won't get to this level if you can't play football. There's a reason they're there. Watching them in five preseason games, each week they've gotten better and better. We need to do a good job of recognizing formations and what's going on, communicating, and going forward.
"We can't get caught up in who we're going against, whether it's a rookie or a first-year guy. We just have to know … this is a division game. These guys are coming into our house and they want to win. We've got to do everything in our power not to let that happen. We have to go out there and establish ourselves, stop the run. They're going to try to run the ball because they had success at it the last time we played. So, we have to go out and start fast."
In the 2008 regular season finale, Buffalo backup running back Fred Jacksonran for 136 yards (an exact 5.0-yard average) against the Patriots at windy Ralph Wilson Stadium. He'll be the Bills top back again on Monday night as Buffalo's starting ball carrier, Marshawn Lynch, serves the first of a three-game suspension.
"Fred Jackson last year ran for over 130 yards on us. So, we have to stop him first and foremost," Mayo pointed out.
"I think he's a complete back," added Wilfork. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run and block and cut back. You name it, he did it against us."
New England is going through its own changes on defense, with having to replace five starters and key contributors from last year's unit – one for every position on the defense (safety Rodney Harrison, cornerback Ellis Hobbs, inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi, outside linebacker Mike Vrabel, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour).
But the Pats insist that they have what it takes to move forward without the players they've lost, including Seymour, who reportedly is finally headed to Oakland this weekend to complete his trade from New England.
"We have each other's backs," said Wilfork, who this week was elected a captain by his teammates. "I will continue to do what I've been doing. Because what I've been doing is giving it my all. And I expect the same thing from these guys. They know that. We've got a lot of leaders … a lot of leaders, trust me … in this locker room."
"We don't feel the pressure as far as that goes," Mayo continued. "Our offense is so explosive, everybody talks about the defense not performing as well. But we'll just go out there and do our job and it'll work itself out. We have a pretty deep team on the defensive side of the ball. We have a group of guys that are ready to step up and take [Seymour's] place.
"It was strange, not seeing Bruschi's locker. But at the same time, guys like Gary Guytonare ready to step up and make plays.
"We're very excited about this upcoming season, starting on Monday night," Wilfork concluded. "It's going to be a tough one. I don't think they're going to come in here and just lay down. We're going to have to work for every inch we get."
Making the switch
Now that it appears that Seymour is Oakland-bound, former Raider Derrick Burgess, now a Patriot, had a few words of advice for his former teammate.
"I just wish him luck on the season. Stay healthy. That's it," Burgess told reporters.
Having join the club just last month, Burgess is going through a similar readjustment to Seymour.
"I'm still in the process," Burgess acknowledged. "Still don't have a place yet. People might forget, with the job and the title and the money and all, that we've got families just like you've got families.
"But, you know, it's part of the job," he added. "It's nothing we can't deal with."
Burgess also said that each NFL team does its best to help its new players make the transition.
"Yeah, they make it comfortable for you, as far as getting back and forth and finding a place to stay and things like that."
Saturday locker room/practice notes
A steady rain forced the Patriots inside the Dana-Farber Field House practice facility on Saturday. Every player was in attendance for the shorts-and-shells session, except for safety Matthew Slater, who has not been seen on the field since injuring his left arm in the preseason finale. Rookie DL Myron Pryorwas back on the field after missing Friday's practice.
Taking in today's workout were the Monday Night Football broadcast team of Ron Jaworski, Mike Tirico, and Jon Gruden, as well as nearly a dozen of the MNF production crew.
It was a more jovial day than usual in the Patriots locker room. Many of the players seemed in high spirits and spent a little extra time joking around with reporters off-camera.