Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was locked in during his preseason debut this past Friday night, completing seven of eight throws -- one for a score -- and guiding two touchdown drives in as many chances.
The efficient effort capped off a week in Philadelphia practicing with the Eagles, and now the Patriots will practice this week in Foxborough with the Buccaneers.
As Brady explained in an interview with the "Dennis and Callahan" show on Boston-based sports radio station WEEI on Monday morning, the importance of joint practices can't be overlooked.
"They're very important, yes, they're just different," he said. "Going against those guys [the Eagles], and we practiced quite a bit against them -- three days, that was the most we've done against any team -- so you start to get a pretty good feel for their team and their strengths and their weaknesses and so forth. We don't happen to play them this year. This week we're actually going against Tampa Bay and we play them in the third game of the year, so that'll be interesting."
While the joint practices last week in Philadelphia didn't involve any tackling (something that may recur with the Bucs), it did afford the Patriots a chance to see some new looks and fresh faces on both sides of the ball. The lack of tackling and overall modest level of physicality during training camp didn't impact the Patriots running game against the Eagles, as the attack cruised to 248 yards on the ground.
This week presents a different challenge in Tampa Bay.
"We're going to be challenged this week by Tampa, who finished last year ranked number one stopping the run," 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 will look to start their game on Friday night against Tampa Bay much like they did against Philadelphia, as running back Stevan Ridley dashed 62-yards to put them into the Eagles red zone. Ridley was propelled by a gaping hole from his line, aided by a tremendous effort from left tackle Nate Solder, who has steadily improved since he first arrived to the team in 2011.
"When he first got here, he was really the swing tackle behind Matt Light and Sebastian [Vollmer]," Brady said of Solder. "He played some tight end his first year. [He's] surprisingly athletic, they put him at tight end his first year because we were light on tight ends at one point. I was throwing him passes and he kind of learned what to do.
"He's always willing and able to do whatever Coach Belichick asks him to do and he's really settled into the left tackle position last year and then continued through it this year. He's been durable and reliable and really been a consistent player for us. We drafted him in the first round [in 2011] and he's really done a great job."
Speaking of being durable and consistent, Brady, now 36, has continued his effective play going into his 14th season. He's spoken in the past about his desire to continue to play the game for several years, provided he feels physically capable. The 36-year old had a notable response when asked how he felt now compared to a decade ago as he works through the soreness and aches associated with the game.
"The biggest difference is I feel better now than I used to feel," he replied. "That's the encouraging part for me. I've found ways that I can prepare my body and prepare myself so that I don't go through that and I don't buy into the fact that as you get older you're going to have to feel crappy for the rest of your life. I try to live my life and take what I've learned over the years and apply that to my every day living so then I can wake up and feel good in the morning and be excited about going to work."