Is the Pats' offense trending toward the ground game?
After the Patriots booted Randy Moss and reeled in Deion Branch, the offense undoubtedly transitioned to a more conservative approach that resembled the operation they employed during their Super Bowl runs.
As such, BenJarvus Green-Ellis became the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004, and the Patriots ranked second in rushing touchdowns, ninth in yards and 10th in attempts. It also had very little effect on their offensive production, as they posted a league-best 518 points, the second highest mark in franchise history.
With those numbers and the Patriots' selections of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the second and third rounds of the draft, respectively, it certainly looked like the Pats were gearing up to keep their offense grounded.
Let's put the numbers into more of a historical perspective. The Patriots rushed the ball 454 times out of 986 plays in 2010 (46.0 percent of their total plays were rushes), and that was the franchise's fourth highest percentage of rushing plays since 2002, which is when the team's online stat database started.
Here's how the numbers shake out:
2010: 46.0 percent of plays were rushes, fourth highest percentage since 2002.
2009: 43.3 percent, sixth.
2008: 48.5 percent, second.
2007: 42.63 percent, seventh.
2006: 47.3 percent, third.
2005: 42.58 percent, eighth.
2004: 50.6 percent, first.
2003: 45.4 percent, fifth.
2002: 38.3 percent, ninth.
There's hardly a trend at any point in the last nine seasons. The ratio increased each year from 2002, when they had one of their worst rushing teams ever, to 2004, when Dillon was an unstoppable force.
From 2004 to 2010, the ratio has alternated from high to low, and vice versa, each season.
What does this mean? Well, maybe not a whole lot. However, it's definitely worth noting that in 2010, the Patriots had their highest rushing ratio with Tom Brady under center since 2006 — and he was the league's first unanimous MVP. This might be significant because the Patriots' offense morphed into a high-flying highlight show in 2007, so 2010 might have been a break from the trend.
More than anything in 2010, the Pats' offense was as efficient as it's ever been, and it was due to a nice balance of short passes and a dedication to the ground attack. Expect more of the same in 2011.
Jeff Howe will answer one Patriots-related question every day through Aug. 1.
Tuesday, July 26: What can the Patriots expect from Wes Welker?
Thursday, July 28: How will the Patriots utilize Danny Woodhead?
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