slides: What to Watch For: Patriots vs. Cleveland

Sunday, October 09, 2016


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Tom Brady Returns

The New England Patriots (3-1) visit the (0-4) Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Kick off is set for 1 p.m. 

The Patriots have won four of their last five games against the Browns, but lost the game played in Cleveland in 2010.

In this game, New England will get a extra boost as quarterback Tom Brady returns from his four game deflategate suspension.

"It's just like any other week, except Tom's back at quarterback baby," said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference earlier this week. 

After a loss last week, Brady and the Patriots will look to get back in the win column against the Browns. 

See what to watch for in the slideshow below 


Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots at Browns

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Browns Running Game

The Browns offense does not have a lot of scary pieces, maybe none at all.

But one player to pay attention to is third year running back Isaiah Crowell has been dangerous out of the back field, averaging 6.5 yards per carry so far this season. He will line up in a traditional running back position, but Cleveland will also put him in the wildcat at times. 

Crowell is coming off of a game against Washington in which he carried the ball 16 times for 120 yards and a touchdown. In Cleveland's week two game against Baltimore, he had 18 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown. 

The Patriots gave up 134 yards rushing in their 16-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. 

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Sheard & Mingo

Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo both came to the Patriots from the Cleveland Browns and this will be their first game against their former team. 

This season, Sheard leads the Patriots with three sacks and has 11 tackles in four games. In 2015, his first season in New England, Sheard finished with eight sacks, second best on the team behind Chandler Jones. 

Mingo came to the Patriots about midway through the pre season and was impressive in the final pre season game against the Giants. 

In the regular season, Mingo has only been used in certain situations or certain packages but has appeared in all four games, recording one sack. He did not have one sack last season for Cleveland. 

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Rob Ninkovich

Tom Brady is not the only player returning to the Patriots this week. 

Defensive end Rob Ninkovich also returns from suspension, and a triceps injury which he suffered in the pre season. 

Ninkovich will add another weapon to a Patriots pass rush that has seven sacks on the season. 

Last season Ninkovich had 6.5 sacks, good enough for third most on the team behind Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard. 

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Rob Gronkowski

When will Rob Gronkowski be his normal self? 

Still hampered by a hamstring injury, Gronkowski only has one catch on 15 routes run so far this season. 

"Obviously, it's holding me back. I missed the first two games, didn't play that much the third one, and played more the fourth one, so I've been progressing every single week, every single day, and hopefully this week now it's go time," said Gronkowski this week. 

In Sunday's loss to the Bills, Gronkowski played 35 offensive snaps, but only ran routes on 34.2 percent (12 plays) of those snaps. 

In both of his games, he has been mostly used as a blocker for the run game. 

"It's the tight end position, it's part of the job - blocking, being able to go up for passes, being able to block. Whatever Coach is having me do, I'm going to be doing, so I can change this week," Gronkowski added. 

One theory is that the Patriots were protecting him from being put in a bad position by rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett. 

it will be interesting to see if things change with Brady back under center this week. 

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Brady's Back

It is here.

The most anticipated Sunday of the Patriots season to this point, the return of Tom Brady from his four game deflategate suspension. 

"He's the leader of our offense. He's a great player, and it's exciting to get TB back, man," said tight end Rob Gronkowski in his press conference earlier this week. 

While Brady has been at practice all week and did throw with numerous people during his suspension, but as they say, practice reps and game reps are two totally different things. 

"I would just say in general, it's hard for a player who's not playing football to practice football. I don't care how many times you run around the track. I don't care how many sit-ups you do. Put 21 other guys out there on the football field and work on the timing and situation football," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick earlier this week. 

How rusty will he be? How quickly can he and the rest of the offense get in sync? and how much of the playbook will be used? 

All questions that will be answered on Sunday against Cleveland. 


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