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Five thoughts on Tom Brady, Adrian Clayborn and a strange day in Foxboro

08.15.13 at 12:46 am ET
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Nate Solder answers questions from reporters after practice Wednesday. (AP)

Nate Solder answers questions from reporters after practice Wednesday. (AP)

1. We know that at this point, the prognosis on Tom Brady’s knee is a good one, with one report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicating that he is likely to practice on Thursday if the diagnosis remains unchanged from the one that leaked Wednesday evening. While it’s important to remember that Thursday will essentially be a walkthrough for both teams in advance of Friday’s preseason contest, the sight of Brady on the field in even a limited basis would be an encouraging one for the team. (Thursday’s session — the last official practice of camp for the team — is set to kick off at 2 p.m.) Nevertheless, the few frantic hours after the quarterback went down served as a reminder that few individuals can have the sort of seismic impact on the game like he can. Every one of Brady’s actions creates some sort of a ripple in the NFL pond — less than an hour after the news broke that the quarterback went down, the Las Vegas Super Book took all Patriots bets off the board, and Bovada suspended all Super Bowl and AFC playoff odds.

2. Regardless of how severe the injury is, Brady needs to be on the field with the young receivers as often as possible. This is not a year where the quarterback can miss out on an opportunity to get reps with his pass catchers, especially with so many of them in the system for the first time. Rookies like Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Zach Sudfeld have impressed to this point, but going forward, they need the quarterback on the field on a consistent basis. While there’s no sense of just how much he can play over the next few weeks (and any benefit would have to outweigh a potential aggravation of the injury), the youngsters are at a key point in their evolution, and for them to continue to succeed, they need Brady throwing to them as often as possible, preferably in game situations.

3. If Brady is out for any stretch — a practice today, this week’s game . . . whatever it may be — this presents Ryan Mallett and the Patriots with a real opportunity. If Brady is indeed out, Mallett should get the chance to work with the No. 1 offense, and that could provide some real insight into whether or not the Arkansas product can succeed in the NFL. Entering his third season with the Patriots, when he’s been given the reps in the past, the signal-caller has yet to display the sort of consistency that’s needed to run the New England offense. If he does get a week with the starters and gets the opportunity to command a reasonable facsimile of the starting offense in a game situation — even in a preseason contest — it would give the Patriots some idea as to whether or not he could do it if called upon for a more significant assignment. (And it would also prove to the rest of the league that Mallett could potentially be worth a second- or third-round pick if New England does try and deal him between now and the 2014 draft.)

4. This one play shouldn’t be an overall indictment on Nate Solder’s summer. Prior to him getting beasted by Adrian Clayborn and pushed into Brady, the left tackle out of Colorado had been having a really good training camp. His teammates have spoken glowingly of the progressions he’s made over the course of the offseason, with Logan Mankins raving about his talent level. He’s been as competitive as any one of the other offensive linemen in the one-on-one drills, and delivered a terrific block on the first play from scrimmage in the preseason opener against the Eagles, opening a hole for Stevan Ridley’s 62-yard run to open the game. Left tackles will occasionally get beaten, especially by a pass rusher like Clayborn, who was listed as Tampa’s best pass rusher in 2011 by Pro Football Focus, having graded out at +11.1. (He was on the shelf for almost all of last season with a knee injury.) There’s no shame in losing a one-on-one battle with someone like Clayborn.

(For what it’s worth, Clayborn also did a great job handling the situation, saying all the right things and demonstrating a nice touch when he was asked what he thinks when he sees someone like Brady on the ground after a play like that: “Hopefully, he gets back up.”)

5. When it comes to injuries, one of our first calls is always to the great Will Carroll, who said Wednesday night that when it comes to this situation, it appears the Patriots — and Brady — will be OK. “Brady appears to have dodged a bullet or at least another surgery to repair his knee,” Carroll said Wednesday night after getting a chance to watch video of the incident. “The falling lineman is always a worry, which makes me wonder why Brady — and the Pats — would allow him out on the field in that kind of situation without a brace protecting him. The low-grade sprain and normal bruising shouldn’t affect him with a few days of rest and treatment. Brady doesn’t play much in the preseason anyway, so I don’t see this setting him or the Pats offense back in anyway. Exhale, New England.”

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