Tom Brady -- All eyes were on Brady, of course, as he made his return to the field following last year's knee injury. The same guy who didn't take a snap in last year's preseason (and I swear, the way that actually prepared Cassel and let him get to know the rest of the team better, it's like they knew.) played two full quarters of football today, and was, as Over the Monster's Randy Booth put it in a Facebook status post, "in full on FU mode."
Even in his very first three-and-out series, he stood up in the pocket with confidence, and his throws were strong and mostly accurate. (It helped that that pocket remained lined with a full complement of starters throughout Brady's playing time.) He would throw two touchdown passes and one INT--on one of a number of long bombs to Randy Moss, most of which were completed. By the end of the first half, with the Patriots leading 21 to 6, Brady looked like he was actually...showing off.
I really hadn't taken for granted that Brady, despite all the encouraging reports, would necessarily be his old self right away. But...damned if it wasn't like he'd just always been there. He lofted floating passes into a running Moss's hands, sent a bullet whistling into the back of the end zone on his second touchdown completion. In front of him his linemen played as if their lives depended on it.
It was, to say the least, very, very encouraging.
Julian Edelman -- The wide receiver drafted this year from Kent State played QB in college. Tonight, I was immediately reminded of Wes Welker watching him play, and he was certainly in the Wes Welker role -- catching quick outs in the flat and leaving defenders grasping at air. He also scored the Patriots' second touchdown in the second quarter with a 75-yard punt return.
Chris Baker -- This tight end signed in the off-season--a former Jet--caught both of Tom Brady's TD passes today. The Globe's Mike Reiss notes, "Baker played every snap [of the first half], an indication of where he stands on the tight end depth chart."
Randy Moss -- His chemistry with Brady just jumped off the screen after watching Matt Cassel fail to 'click' with the star wideout last year. Also, he rarely left Brady's side on the sideline, and several times was shown with a grin so wide, you would've thought it was Christmas and his birthday all at the same time. Aww.
Myron Pryor -- The former
Patrick Chung -- The heir apparent to Rodney Harrison blocked a field goal, and made some impressive open-field tackles early in the second half.
Jerod Mayo - Tied Patrick Chung for team lead with 5 tackles today, including a brutal shot to open his season on the Eagles' LeSean McCoy. There's just something electrifying about his energy, and, as my father likes to say, "he'll pop you one."
James Sanders -- Four tackles today for a defensive back I'd really like to see come up big in Rodney's absence. Chung is doing pretty well so far, but it's nice to have a strong veteran presence back there with a rookie.
Jonathan Wilhite -- The 2008 draftee was also among the team leaders today with four tackles and some great coverage on the long pass from McNabb in the first half.
Terrence Wheatley -- Three tackles and seeming to pick up where he left off after he broke his wrist just when he was showing promise last year in a game against the Colts.
Darius Butler -- The 2009 draftee out of UConn got some snaps in the first half and had 2 solo tackles. Was the player who finally picked off an attempted two-point conversion pass after Belichick put his second and third stringers through three consecutive goal line situations in the second half -- two of which they lost.
Note the number of defensive backs on this list. It is safe to say the Patriots have, ahem, acquired some depth at these positions.