FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Put yourself in Bill Belichick’s hoodie and consider the question: “When it comes to what’s best for the team, should Tom Brady play in Saturday’s second preseason game against the Houston Texans?”
If the New England Patriots quarterback is going to take any snaps in the preseason, it’s either this week or Aug. 25 in Detroit. There's no way he will play Aug. 31 in the preseason finale, because that game is seven days before the regular-season opener.
Here are reasons on both sides of the ledger to consider Saturday in Houston:
2. Just as Belichick talks about coaches having to get back into the swing of calling plays each season, quarterbacks need the work to sharpen their game-management skills, which is best done when situations organically present themselves. Having Brady play in two preseason games would have the 40-year-old at his sharpest entering the regular season.
3. Conditioning is always a big focus for the Patriots and playing in a game is part of that. As Belichick sometimes says, there is no way to get prepared for football season without playing football. For some leaguewide context, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their starting offense through the first half Thursday night.
4. Good things happen when Brady takes the field at Houston's NRG Stadium, such as coming back from a 28-3 second-half deficit in Super Bowl LI.
Don't play him
1. The Patriots don’t have starting left tackle Nate Solder or backup LaAdrian Waddle, so Cam Fleming projects to start at left tackle. One crunching, blindside hit from a Texans defense that is one of the better units in the NFL could change a lot.
2. By the end of joint practices with the Texans this week, Brady had taken 70-80 reps during team drills. Between that work, and a slightly lower total in Patriots-Jaguars joint practices the week before, Brady has gotten in a lot of quality work already.
3. There are no full-pads joint practices next week (just a joint walk-through with the Lions), so Brady could potentially play into the third quarter next week. Thus, this is a good game to get Jimmy Garoppolo what could be his most extensive work all year.
4. The Patriots play the Texans in Week 3 of the regular season.
Belichick has yet to put a “suggestions box” in the media workroom, even though he has already talked about the personnel-evaluation acumen of those in the room (wink, wink). So he’ll surely appreciate this one. My vote would be to sit Brady and turn the focus to next week in Detroit. In this specific situation, the risk outweighs the reward.