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New England Patriots Links 8/18/11 - Patriots at Buccaneers Tonight

Ian Rapoport gives us five things to watch tonight. Here's one:

Can Brandon Meriweather secure his starting job? Intrigue has surrounded the Patriots safety position, as Brandon Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowler, appears to be in jeopardy of losing his job. The fact the team worked out three veterans at that position, and given Sergio Brown ample play, makes that more clear. Yet Meriweather is talented. He’s a ball-hawk who has the ability to do the job that’s required. If he played within the system, he could continue to turn in seasons that really would make him a Pro Bowler. But is he willing to end the discussion and become the true starter?

The Boston Globe offers five things to watch vs. the Buccaneers tonight.

1. Chad Ochocinco has had a bit of a rough time picking up the Patriots offense, which requires much more on-the-fly interpretation from the quarterback and receiver than what he ran with the Bengals. It would help if Tom Brady and Ochocinco start getting on the same page soon.

2. With left tackle Matt Light unlikely to play, first-round pick Nate Solder will have to block the quarterback’s blind side against a very good defense. Expect Solder to get a lot of help, with tight ends and backs chipping.

3. Solder will get a lot of reps against two players, ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, whom some wanted the Patriots to take in the draft to address the pass rush. Clayborn went three picks after Solder. Bowers slid all the way to 51st because of concerns about his knee. Safety Ahmad Black is another player that seemed to fit the Patriots.

4. New England’s backups were able to generate good pressure against the Jaguars last week, but the Buccaneers offensive line is much more formidable. So is quarterback Josh Freeman. This will be a good barometer for the Patriots third-down defense.

5. Since he didn’t play in the opener, all eyes will be on linebacker Jerod Mayo to see where he lines up on defense, whether it’s the middle, strong-, or weak-side position. Expect the Patriots to move Mayo around a lot.