Patriots Tuesday: Quarter Season Grades for 2016
By Joe Lewis
The Patriots have hit the first quarter pole of the 2016 season. Here’s a look the team’s overall performance through four games.
Given the difficult quarterback situation and a 3-1 record, it’s tempting to overestimate New England’s offensive performance so far this year. There’s no doubt that Josh McDaniels deserves a lot of credit for generating production under less-than-ideal circumstances, but an objective look at the numbers shows that the offense has been fairly pedestrian in comparison to the rest of the league. The team is tied for 18th in total yards (1,385) and ranks 21st in points per game (20.3) so far this season. It’s also worth noting that Atlanta’s Julio Jones tallied more offensive yards (300) than the entire Patriot team did (277) in Week 4. It likely goes without saying, however, that having Tom Brady back under center should be the cure for the team’s offensive woes.
Unlike the offense, strictly looking at some of the numbers doesn’t tell the entire story for the defense. While New England ranks 19th in yards allowed per game, they are 4th in points per game (15.3) trailing only Philadelphia, Minnesota and Seattle. Overall, the Patriot defense has played admirably. They kept the Week 4 contest against Buffalo within reach when the entire affair could have been beyond hope by halftime. Still, there have been some troubling moments. The defense surrendered 21 second-half points to the Dolphins in their Week 2 clash–14 of those coming in the fourth quarter–nearly letting a game slip away that seemed to be well in hand by halftime. The return of Rob Ninkovich will likely provide a spark to the pass rush, but the defensive tackle position is failing to get pressure up the middle and is also struggling against the run. These are areas that Matt Patricia will have to address moving forward.
Special Teams: B-
Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and the rest of the coverage teams have been fantastic this year, forcing turnovers and setting up the offense in very good position on more than one occasion. Punter Ryan Allen has performed at a high level as well, and there haven’t been any glaring issues in the punt return game. Kick returner Cyrus Jones, however, committed two costly blunders in Week 4 that put the Patriots behind the proverbial 8-ball early against Buffalo. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been uncharacteristically inaccurate as well, missing a field goal that would have effectively put away the game against Miami, and another one last Sunday–both at home, no less. Those loose threads will have to be shored up in short order, lest they continue to plague the team at inopportune times.
Agree or disagree with this list? Let us know in the comments.