ESPN recently handed out grades for the front-sevens in the NFL. The New England Patriots did not grade out well.
Through eight games, the New England Patriots are on top of the AFC East with a 6-2 record. As winners of four straight, the Patriots have been able to erase some of their struggles from early on in the season.
To start the season, things weren’t looking good for New England. When the Patriots were 2-2, they looked lost defensively, as everyone was throwing for over 300 yards against them. This poor start for the defense resulted in them being ranked as one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Recently, ESPN ranked the front sevens for teams in the NFL. The Patriots’ front seven came in with a grade of an ‘F’ and were ranked as the worst front seven in all of football. Here’s what ESPN had to say about the grade.
"This grade should come as no surprise, as the Patriots defense has struggled in nearly every area for most of this season. New England ranks 31st in PPR (21.3), 26th in sack rate (4.9), and dead last in TIP (2.6), TBP (2.8), YBCT (3.3), GBR (50.3) and GBP (4.1)."
A lot of the reasons for the poor grade for the Patriots was because of the start to the season. However, the Patriots will now have to play without Dont’a Hightower for the rest of the season. As arguably the best player in the Patriots’ front-seven, this will be a challenging thing for the Patriots to overcome.
Moving forward, the Patriots will be relying on David Harris and Kyle Van Noy to step up with Hightower down. So far, Van Noy has had his struggles, however, Harris has played well the last few games.
Overall, the Patriots’ defense has been much better the past few weeks. With the secondary really coming along and fixing some of their communication breakdowns, the defense has performed much better.
Along the defensive line, the Patriots really need Alan Branch to play better. As one of the best run stuffers in the league last season, Branch hasn’t performed like he did in 2016. If Branch can find his form of 2016, that would certainly help the Patriots’ front-seven in the second half of the season.