With so many questions surrounding the Patriots defense heading into the 2009 season, just the opposite is the case on the other side of the football.
Many observers are expecting this year's New England offense to rival the record-smashing 2007 team. The pressure to perform, therefore, and put up prodigious amounts of points, seems to be increasing. But that's not necessarily the case among the Patriots players, who don't feel that the offense will need to bail out the defense, at least early on, by scoring in prolific amounts.
"No, no added pressure," insisted RB Fred Taylor. "Going into each and every game, as an offense, we want to execute and we have to trust the defense. That's the way it's always been. We just have to trust each other.
"In football, they always say, 'Be prepared to play 60 minutes.' That's the way you approach the games. You have to be tough – mentally tough, physically tough – to be able to operate when you're tired, whatever the score is. Thirty points … you're not always going to score it."
"Our job is to go out and score," added guard Logan Mankins. "I don't know anything about our defense. That's all on them. I just worry about the offense. They have a job to do."
That said, does the potential exist for this Pats offense to put up the kind of numbers that broke records two seasons ago?
"We don't know," Mankins replied. "It's a new year, a lot of guys have to stay healthy. So, there's a lot that goes into it. Every game we're trying to score as many points as we can."
"I mean, it's great on paper," conceded Taylor, "but you don't take the paper into the game. You've still got to play, got to execute, you have to factor in turnovers and injuries. But on paper, it looks outstanding, like an all-star squad. But you've still got to go out there and play.
"You've gotta have some type of confidence going in," he continued. "I think we all agree that we can get better. And I'm sure as the season goes, we will get better. But we've got to continue to work hard through the week to get ready for this game Monday night."
One Giant leap
TE Michael Matthews, recently acquired by the Pats in a trade with the New York Giants, greeted the media at his locker Thursday, and said he's been greeted by his new teammates since arriving in New England.
"I feel great, welcomed. Everyone's been nice to me. I'm just trying to get to know the guys a little bit. It's a welcoming environment here for new players.
Matthews added that he was shocked to find out he'd been traded, but is happy to be a Patriot.
"I wasn't really anticipating that. But it is what it is. This is football. I was excited to have a job, first and foremost, to be able to provide for my family. I'm excited to be here and start getting to work."
Matthews was with the Giants when they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
"At home," he revealed, "I have my little Super Bowl shrine and the memories you take from that game. I have a picture of me blocking Adalius [Thomas].
"So, now I'm probably going to take the picture down because I'm a Patriot," he laughed.
Thursday locker room/practice notes
As the Patriots took to the practice field, the team's PR department announced which players were elected team captains by their teammates. The 2009 Patriots captains are as follows: QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, WR Sam Aiken, LB Jerod Mayo, and NT Vince Wilfork.
Thanks to a great team effort by the assembled media, attendance was fully covered today, and only safety Matthew Slater was missing from the first 20 minutes of practice. That means rookie WR Julian Edelman, cornerback Terrence Wheatley, and rookie DL Myron Pryorwere all back in action after missing recent sessions.
Earlier in the day, in the Pats locker room, Mankins, who sported a Fu Manchu mustache as a rookie, was asked about he neighbor on the line, tackle Matt Light, and his new facial hair.
"He's rockin' the Fu Manchu. He looks pretty good," Mankins claimed, before cracking a smile. "I think when I had mine, I looked a lot better."
Mankins also had some positive things to say about New England's throwback uniforms, which they're wearing throughout the week leading up to the Legacy Game season-opener against Buffalo.
"He looks good," Mankins said of the Pat Patriot logo. "I like the helmets. They're nice."
The entertaining Mankins drew laughs from the media when he was asked to recall a memory from his first regular season opener, back in 2005, when the defending champion Patriots faced the Oakland Raiders and former teammate Ted Washingtonon a Thursday night.
"Maybe the best story about my first game was playing Ted Washington, one of the biggest men you'll ever see," Mankins explained. "I was a young rookie and hit him after the whistle. He turned to me with his three-foot-long fingers … 'Young feller, don't ever do that again.' I thought that was pretty good."