Already short-handed Brady must turn to youth vs. Jets

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

The NFL is a battle of attrition, with the physicality of the game eating away at talented rosters over the course of the long 16-game season.
But the Patriots' new-look offense is already facing major health issues just one game into the season.
Not exactly what head coach Bill Belichick is looking for in a short work week as his Patriots (1-0) prepare to face the division-rival New York Jets (1-0) on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
Two of New England's biggest contributors in its surprisingly competitive and at times sloppy Week 1 win in Buffalo are now banged up and expected to miss time.
Running back Shane Vereen led the Patriots with 159 yards of total offense against the Bills, including his first career 100-yard game on the ground, but also reportedly broke a small bone in his wrist on the first play of the day. He underwent surgery a day later and was then placed on injured reserve by the Patriots with a designation to return. That means he's out for at least eight weeks, meaning the earliest he could return to New England's lineup is Nov. 18 in Carolina.
That's literally and figuratively a bad break for both Vereen and the offense that gets ready to face a New York defense that for all the circus and disappointment in the Big Apple under Rex Ryan's watch, was once again a top 10 unit a year ago.
Fellow third-year running back Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground twice in the first half in Buffalo and was subsequently benched, but his time in the dog house thanks to his recurring ball-security issues may be shortened with Vereen sidelined for the next two months.
The Patriots' other top clutch playmaker in Buffalo, free-agent wide receiver addition Danny Amendola, also left Week 1 with a groin injury is likely to sideline him for at least a week and potentially a couple more. Amendola left the Bills game in the second quarter, but returned in the second half. He finished the victory with a game-high 10 catches for 104 yards, including seven receptions for 64 yards after he aggravated the groin issue.
How important are Amendola and Vereen to the Patriots offense after just one week? The duo were the only targets of Tom Brady's seven pass attempts on his fourth-quarter comeback drive to a game-winning 35-yard field goal with just 5 seconds to play in Buffalo.
Brady is expected to be without both Thursday night in Foxborough. Add that to the likely absence of Rob Gronkowski as he continues to work back from offseason back/forearms surgeries, and New England's young, new-look passing attack is going through even more of a transition early in the season than expected.
Working with a trio of rookie receivers - Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce - and just one healthy tight end, Brady will be expected to make due as he has almost always done. But that won't be easy with Julian Edelman as really the only known commodity to work with in the passing game and a still-stout Jets defense heading to town.
SERIES HISTORY: 106th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 53-51-1. After the Jets won two of three under Rex Ryan in 2010, including knocking New England from the playoffs that January, the Patriots have bounced back and won the last four in the series. New England has actually won 19 of the past 25 in the series overall, dominating over the last decade-plus in the heated AFC East rivalry that's had so many off-field subplots over the years.
--DE Andre Carter, who spent last season in Oakland, was in Foxborough for a free agent workout with the Patriots on Monday. Carter spent the 2011 campaign in New England, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl with 10 sacks in 14 games before landing on injured reserve with a torn quad.
--TE Rob Gronkwoski (forearm/back) was limited in the Patriots walk-through on Wednesday and is not expected to play on Thursday night against the Jets.
--WR Danny Amendola is dealing with a groin injury that's likely to cause him to miss Thursday night's game against New York. Amendola was listed as limited in practice on Tuesday for New England's walk through.
--RB Shane Vereen reportedly underwent wrist surgery on Sept. 9. He was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return the next. That means he eliminated from the roster for at least the next eight weeks.
--TE Zach Sudfeld injured his hamstring in the season opener in Buffalo. The undrafted rookie was listed as a limited participant in the team's Wednesday walk through.
GAME PLAN: The Jets are not a team built or poised for putting up lot of points. But, at this early stage in the season, New England's ability to be a high-scoring attack is also a bit in question given injuries and uncertainty at many of the skill positions.
The biggest key for the Patriots with the quick turnaround this week against the Jets will be to take care of the football. New York has an impressive front and the Patriots struggled with turnovers in Week 1. Look for Tom Brady to use a short, high-percentage passing game against the Jets that should employ the skills of Julian Edelman. Balancing that out could be a few "shot plays" for rookie receiver Josh Boyce, who has the ability to get deep and the speed to make things happen on end-arounds.
Defensively, the Patriots will face an athletic rookie quarterback for the second straight week. First and foremost, the front will be expected to shut down a lackluster and somewhat faceless rushing attack. Then it will be about getting some controlled pressure on Geno Smith, something New England is capable of with Chandler Jones coming off the edge while Tommy Kelly gets push up the middle.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots WR Julian Edelman, who had seven catches on opening day, vs. Jets slot cornerback Kyle Wilson. Edelman is the lone experienced healthy weapon for the Patriots. He has the ability to play inside or out, but could be a major challenge for Wilson in the slot as New England takes a high-percentage approach to a passing game that's very much in a state flux.
Patriots offensive line vs. Rex Ryan. The New York head coach has taken over more control of the defense and he has never been afraid to throw a variety of blitz looks at an opponent. New England got burned by a couple blitzes in Week 1 in Buffalo and allowed a few runaway rushers to get after Brady. Ryan will test New England's veteran offensive line in terms of the group's communication and decision making.
Jets WR Stephen Hill vs. Patriots No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib spent the offseason honing his skills working against Danny Amendola in practice. But Hill is a bigger, downfield threat than Talib is typically accustomed to playing. Talib gave up a score in the opener and had trouble defending down the field over the summer. With injuries at receiver, Hill may be Geno Smith's best chance to take some shots down the field and get yards in chunks against Talib and a Patriots secondary that still has to prove itself.

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