(This is the second entry into a seven part series that will grade the players from the 2012 season.)
As Brady gets older, he gets better. He is one of the rare athletes in sports that does this, and it is really amazing to witness it. Brady’s final stats for 2012 were 4,827 yards with 34 touchdowns to go along with 8 interceptions. He also completed 63% of his passes. Brady is the best quarterback in the league in my opinion, and he proved that again in 2012. He engineered the best offense in the NFL with his two most talented weapons (Gronk and Hernandez) missing a combined 11 games. That is very impressive and yet it doesn’t come as a surprise to Pats fans. Brady makes great decisions with the football and his accuracy and pocket presence skills are some of the best of all time. If Brady is not on this Patriots squad, then they probably don’t even make the playoffs and because of that he deserves nothing less than an ‘A’.
Mallett hardly got any playing time in 2012 mostly because Tom Brady hates to come out of the game, regardless of the score. The time to really evaluate Mallett is in the pre-season and in those games he really impressed me. Mallett has a very strong arm, and although he makes a lot of questionable decisions I think he has a very bright future. As for his grade for 2012, he threw a whole four passes throughout the season so it is very hard to give him a grade, so his grade is based on his pre-season games.
Ridley gave the Patriots a running game in 2012, which was something that they hadn’t had for a good seven or eight seasons. Ridley finished the year with 1,263 yards on 290 carries with 12 touchdowns. He has great vision as a ball-carrier to go along with his solid speed and quickness. He did have some fumbling issues in 2011, but he really worked hard to clean them up in 2012. He lost two fumbles last year, but he did a much better job at protecting the football.
The amount of clutch plays that Woodhead came up with last season was truly remarkable. Whenever the Patriots were in some sort of a jam Woodhead seemed to bail them out. He is a small guy, but he makes up for it in quickness, and football smarts. Between rushing and receiving he had 747 yards and seven touchdowns. The impressive thing about those stats is he put them all up as a backup running back. Woody is now on the Chargers, and they are a very lucky team by being able to pick him up.
Vereen didn’t play much because of injuries, but he really came on in the late stages of the year. His biggest game was in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Texans where he scored three touchdowns. Vereen is a talented guy that has been hampered by injuries his whole career. Another reason he hasn’t received a lot of playing time is because his skill set is very similar to Danny Woodhead’s. Now that Woodhead is gone, Vereen is going to get a lot of chances to show off his impressive athletic ability. In 2012 he finished with 400 yards from scrimmage along with 4 touchdowns.
Before Bolden was suspended on Nov. 9th in 2012 and up until that suspension, it looked like he would be headed for a big season. But that suspension really put him in the doghouse and he never was able to consistently get back on the field. He is a very talented back, and hopefully he is able to get back on Belichick’s good side in 2013.