The 2016 New England Patriots sure receive a lot of criticism for a 7-1 team.
Most of the grievances revolve around the Patriots’ defense, specifically the pass rush and cornerback play. Using our charting stats, gathered through the first eight weeks of the season, we’ll try to give you a closer look at the performances of the Patriots’ air attack and passing defense halfway through the season.
Here’s what we noticed.
— Wide receiver Julian Edelman has the highest drop rate, but that hasn’t stopped Patriots quarterbacks from targeting him. He has the highest total target rate, which is a player’s targets per the team’s total passing attempts (249).
— Among regular receivers, running back James White is targeted at the highest rate when he’s on the field.
— Wide receiver Danny Amendola doesn’t play as frequently as most Patriots pass-catchers, but he’s as dependable as they come with no drops and an 80-percent catch rate.
— Tight end Rob Gronkowski had drop issues in training camp, but those went away in the regular season. His yards per route run also is double that of most other Patriots receivers.
— Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has seen two incompletions go off his hands, but both passes were inaccurate enough to not be considered drops.
— Center David Andrews leads the Patriots’ offensive linemen in pressure percentage, but that’s slightly misleading because many times he’s double-teaming a defensive tackle.
— Marcus Cannon’s pressure percentage is very impressive for an offensive tackle. Solder’s is higher because he typically faces better competition from right defensive end.
— White could lose some pass blocking reps when running back Dion Lewis returns.
— Left guard Joe Thuney gets pushed around at times, but he’s only allowed one sack all season. Right guard Shaq Mason could lose snaps if Tre’ Jackson ever comes off the physically unable to perform list.
— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s pressure percentage is remarkable. He doesn’t always finish with sacks, but he’s consistently getting pressure.
— Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers need to get their pressure rate up for the Patriots’ pass rush to start generating more consistent pressure.
— Lineabacker Barkevious Mingo could begin to see more of the pass-rushing snaps Jamie Collins was receiving.
— Defensive tackles Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valenetine and Woodrow Hamilton weren’t expected to get after the passer frequently, but their low rates show why the Patriots miss Akiem Hicks and Dominique Easley.
— Cornerback Malcolm Butler gets his hand on 25 percent of targets. It would be ideal if he started to turn some pass breakups into interceptions, but he’s still having a fantastic season.
— The Patriots need to see better play out of their No. 2 cornerback, whether that’s Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe. Ryan also has two penalties for 25 yards, while Rowe has three for 63 yards, leading the team. Butler has three penalties for 31 yards. Justin Coleman, who has two penalties for 24 yards, could begin to see more playing time.
— The Patriots will miss Collins’ playmaking skills and man coverage. Interestingly, the Patriots still allowed fewer yards per pass with Collins off the field (6.26) than on (6.37).
— Hightower does a nice job of preventing big plays. Since most of the receptions he allows come against running backs, he allowed a high catch rate.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports images
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