The New England Patriots ran all over the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night, rushing for 248 yards en route to a 31-22 preseason win. The Patriots believe they have an elite group of running backs who can dominate any game, especially with how reliable the offensive line has proven to be. However, the Eagles may not have been the best barometer to gauge the Patriots rushing attack, especially since Philadelphia ranked 24th in rushing defense last season.
A true test for the Patriots’ rushing offense will occur on Friday night when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Gillette Stadium. The Buccaneers had the top-ranked run defense in the NFL in 2012, giving up just 82.5 yards per game on the ground. Staggeringly, the Bucs ranked dead last in pass defense last season, surrendering a whopping 4,758 yards through the air. However, the Bucs’ pass defense is expected to be improved this season after selecting cornerback Jonathan Banks in the 2013 draft, signing safety Dashon Goldson and trading for All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Bucs’ rush defense should be even more ferocious than a season ago now that their secondary has been shored up as teams will no longer have the freedom of passing all over the back end of the defense.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady understands the arduous task that will be presented to the offense in this week’s preseason contest.
“We’re going to be challenged this week by Tampa,” Brady said. “We only had one game, one sample size so to speak, we’re going to see how our run game, our pass game, our tempo and all those things play out against another team. That’ll give us a little better indication of where we’re at.”
The Patriots want to prove they have a dominant rushing corps, fueled by their talented halfbacks and workman offensive linemen. Pounding the rock against the Bucs with success will certainly demonstrate just how dangerous the Patriots ground attack will be this season.