What to watch for
Here are the four biggest things we’ll be focusing on during the Patriots’ season opener against the Bills in Buffalo Sunday at 1 p.m ET.
The biggest question mark heading into training camp was the receiving corps, which, with the exception of Julian Edelman and an injured Rob Gronkowski, has been entirely overhauled. Those questions have largely been answered – to the extent that preseason football can answer such things. The rookie trio of Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins has far exceeded expectations and Danny Amendolaifhecanstayhealthy looks like he’s been catching passes from Tom Brady for 10 years not 10 weeks. While the Bills aren’t exactly the cream of the NFL crop, Sunday is still an important opportunity to see how the passing game looks in real game action.
*Note: Dobson, who has been limited all week with a hamstring injury, did not make the trip to Buffalo.
Interior defensive line depth
Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are probably the best 1-2 punch at tackle the Patriots have had since Richard Seymour and Wilfork but undrafted rookie Joe Vellano is the only other tackle on the roster.
Getting to Manuel
Bills rookie EJ Manuel is an athletic but inexperienced quarterback making his first career start. It will be interesting to see how well New England’s front seven does at keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to beat them with his legs.
Containing C.J. Spiller
Spiller is a highlight waiting to happen and a nightmare catching passes out of the backfield. New England has a strong group of linebackers in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, but none of them are anywhere near quick enough to stay with Spiller. Look for rookie linebacker Jamie Collins to get some reps, as he excels in pass coverage.