The Patriots have won both of their first two contests of the 2013 season, and obviously that is a good thing. However, the way they have played hasn’t showed the Super Bowl aspirations that most of the players on this team have, can be realized. But it is only week two, and things will change (hopefully for the better) and who knows how this team will look like come December.
When a team wins a football game, there are a multitude of factors that go into coming out on top. You have to take into account the experience on each side, the schemes run and the game-planning, and of course as we were reminded on Thursday night, the weather is a big part of the game. But ultimately what trumps all of these factors, is the performance of each individual player, and despite looking awful over the last two weeks the Patriots did have some ‘MVP’ type players, as well as some guys that could have lost the game for New England.
MVP’s: Julian Edelman, Kyle Arrington, Offensive Line (Pass Blocking)
Edelman is an obvious choice, as he has been the only reliable guy for Tom Brady throughout the first two weeks of the season. He has hauled in 20 balls for a total of 157 yards, to go along with two touchdown grabs. Edelman’s sharp underneath route running has given Brady one consistent option, amid all the disarray at the receiver position.
Kyle Arrington has been solid in the slot, which has gone well with New England’s stellar secondary play. Arrington’s trademark physicality has resulted in two forced fumbles and three defended passes.
One of the most underrated aspects of this Patriots team in my opinion, has been the pass blocking of the offensive line. Brady has dropped back 94 times in the first two contests, and he has only been sacked three times. That is very good pass blocking by the Pats, regardless of the talent opposite of them. They gave Brady time to effectively maneuver his team down the field in the waning moments of the Bills game, and while Brady couldn’t do anything on Thursday against the Jets, I think it would have been much worse if the offensive line hadn’t shown up.
LVP’s: Kenbrell Thompkins, Stevan Ridley, Offensive Line (Run Blocking)
Coming into the regular season, the excitement surrounding rookie wideout Kenbrell Thompkins was easily the mos talked about thing concerning the Patriots revamped offense. Everybody was gushing over his exceptional ability to beat man coverage, and his solid set of hands. But that has not translated to the field thus far in the season. His inability to create separation and make some plays has caused the Patriots offense to be much less effective than expected. Without a solid number two option behind Julian Edelman, New England has stalled when trying to move the ball through the air. Brady has targeted Thompkins 21 times through two games, and he has only come up with six catches. This means that when Brady throws at Thompkins, he completes the ball a mere 28% of the time. If this keeps up, then I guarantee those targets will decrease fast.
Much like Thompkins, there was a lot of excitement surrounding running back Stevan Ridley heading into this 2013 season. Ridley ran for over 1,200 yards in 2012, and many people (including myself) were expecting another excellent season from Ridley here in 2013. However we are two games in, and I don’t see the same Ridley that I saw last year. His fumbling issues are still at large, but even when he manages to hang onto the football, he isn’t gaining the yards he needs to be a productive back in this league. Ridley has gained 86 yards on 25 carries for a 3.44 yards per carry average so far this season. That is not going to cut it, and his lack of production combined with Shane Vereen’s wrist injury has made this Patriots offense extremely one dimensional.
As good as the Patriots offensive line has been in terms of pass blocking, I think that their performance against the Jets on the ground warrants their placement on this list. While both Ridley and LeGarrette Blount were putrid at hitting holes and making plays happen on the ground, the big boys in front of them didn’t do much to help them. It was a complete turnaround from week one, as I thought they did a solid job at opening up holes for backup running back Shane Vereen. However in week two they weren’t opening up any holes for the backs, and at numerous points throughout the game, they were actually getting pushed backed at the line of scrimmage, and that is never good for an offensive line in the run blocking department. As a team, the Patriots average yards per rush was 2.3 against the Jets, and a lot of the blame lies on the shoulders of the offensive line.