What to Watch For, Week 2: The Offense Is Still in the Woods

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Following up a rough opening game and a tough week of injuries, the Patriots have a lot to prove Thursday.

If you thought Sunday afternoon was rough, Thursday night might be even worse.

After squeaking by the Buffalo Bills and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel on Sunday, there were plenty of questions floating around Patriots headquarters. Are the receivers good enough? Is the offense too predictable? Is Bill looking sharper than ever?

Here are three things to watch for Thursday night:

Who is Tom Brady going to throw to?

The Patriots have been hit by the injury bug. With Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola listed as doubtful, Shane Vereen is out and Zach Sudfeld is questionable. With Vereen and Amendola out for Thursday night, that's 17 receptions from Sunday's game that won't play against the Jets. Sudfeld didn't have a catch Sunday, but at least he was a body with two hands that might get open and might hold on to the ball. That's something, I guess.

So who's left? Julian Edelman, who was a nice, consistent threat Sunday with two touchdown catches, and Kenbrell Thompkins, who didn't exactly shine in his debut. (With that said, I think he deserves a little more credit for what he did Sunday. He had just four catches, but he was covered like a blanket all day. If he has half that coverage Thursday, he'll have a huge game.)

Also, Aaron Dobson is questionable this week, which leaves Josh Boyce as another rookie option for Brady. Brady might look for Michael Hoomanawanui a few more times, as well as Matthew Slater who, by default, might see some time on offense.

In other news, Kevin Faulk was seen on the streets of Foxboro on Wednesday...

Ridley needs sticky hands

Stevan Ridley was benched Sunday because he lost a fumble. That's something Bill Belichick doesn't tolerate. Ridley rode the bench and Vereen ran away with the opportunity, notching 101 yards on 14 carries. But, of course, Vereen is out until Week 11 now, which essentially gives Ridley his job back.

Two years ago, Ridley fumbled and lost a lot of playing time. He learned from it and put together a great 2012 campaign. Something tells me he'll learn the same lesson this year. If Ridley doesn't have a great game, I'll be surprised. If he fumbles the ball, I'll be speechless. But I think we'll see a nice rebound game from the third-year back out of LSU.

The Patriots need a great game from Ridley considering the lack of offensive weapons at the moment. And if Ridley can't gain any traction, there isn't much behind him to carry the load. LeGarrette Blount was a non-factor Sunday, rushing for 15 yards on seven carries, and Brandon Bolden and Leon Washington are fighting through injuries. It's Ridley or almost nothing Thursday night.

Get the rookie dirty

Rookie quarterbacks are welcomed to the NFL in only one way: Eating dirt. The Patriots went fairly easy on Manuel on Sunday. They never recorded a sack and blitzed him just six times. The Patriots forced him to have a good game. Manuel did, but he didn't blow up the stat sheet, either. It was a bend-don't-break approach to the quarterback position and it seemed to work.

Now the Patriots face Geno Smith and the Jets on Thursday. It'll be interesting to see how Belichick and the defense approach this game. Do they let Smith drop back and sling it like they did Manuel? Or do they try to attack the young quarterback and knock him to the dirt? I think they'll use the same approach they did Sunday, but it'd be nice to see a few sacks for the defense Thursday.

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