The New England Patriots have started the 2020 season 3-5, so don’t expect many high marks in our midseason report card.
Mid-terms didn’t go so well, but there’s still hope for the Patriots to finish strong with finals.
It?s been an up-and-down ride for the Patriots? quarterbacks through eight games. Cam Newton played well to start the season and has been solid in recent weeks. He struggled in Weeks 3, 6 and 7, however. Throw in the play of Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham in Week 4, and this is an overall C grade. Newton needs to continue on his current trajectory.
RUNNING BACK: B+
Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel all rank high in Football Outsiders? DVOA metric this season. Harris (63 carries, 350 yards, touchdown) and Burkhead (76 touches, 388 yards, four touchdowns) have been especially impressive out of the backfield. White missed two games after the sudden death of his father. Michel played three games before being placed on injured reserve. Harris missed three games and injured his chest Monday night against the Jets. There?s solid depth here when you include rookie J.J. Taylor.
WIDE RECEIVER: C
Jakobi Meyers gets an A. We know that. Damiere Byrd, who now leads the team with 337 receiving yards also is exceeding expectations. N?Keal Harry, the Patriots’ 2019 first-round pick, has been a disappointment, and outside of the Patriots? Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Julian Edelman didn?t look like himself before going on IR with a knee injury.
TIGHT END: F
Patriots tight ends rank last in the NFL with 1.2 catches per game and second-to-last with 15.2 yards per game. New England is one of two teams, the other being the New York Jets, that doesn’t have a touchdown reception by a tight end. Rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene can?t stay on the field, and they?ve been ineffective while on it. Ryan Izzo is a bottom-tier starter. The Patriots just brought in Jordan Thomas, Dylan Cantrell and David Wells to provide some depth. It can?t be much worse than what New England already has, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Thomas, who had a solid rookie campaign with the Houston Texans in 2018, is starting by the end of the year.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
Maybe we?re being generous, but we?ll give them a bump for level of difficulty. The Patriots? run blocking has been excellent despite injuries to every single Week 1 starter other than Michael Onwenu. They?ve also protected Newton well for the most part in the passing game.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
Deatrich Wise and Lawrence Guy have been two of the Patriots? best defenders. New England is shallow beyond those two and tried to play without a nose tackle for seven weeks. It went about as well as you might have expected. Carl Davis, who?s 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, showed promise in his Patriots debut Monday night, finally filling the nose need.
Ja?Whaun Bentley and John Simon were supposed to keep this unit together after losing Kyle Van Noy, Dont?a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts this offseason, but they?ve underperformed. Chase Winovich only played sparingly from Weeks 6 to 8, and rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings can?t get on the field. At least practice squadder Terez Hall looked solid Monday night.
They haven?t been as bad as you think, though Monday night’s performance against the Jets was pretty ugly. JC Jackson has five interceptions and is allowing a 76.6 passer rating this season. Slot cornerback Jonathan Jones also has played well, letting up a 90.6 passer rating. Jason McCourty has been unlucky in coverage, and Stephon Gilmore currently is dealing with a knee injury.
The Patriots have missed Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon, but Devin McCourty has stayed consistent, and Adrian Phillips has been a steady presence in the box. We?d like to see rookie Kyle Dugger get more of a run in the second half of the season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
The Patriots? special teams unit, unsurprisingly, ranks highly in Football Outsiders? advanced metrics. Jake Bailey has been one of the NFL?s best punters, and Nick Folk, the Week 9 special teams player of the week, has, quietly, not missed a kick since Week 3. Of course, it helps that the Patriots? offense hasn?t been giving him many extra-point opportunities, but New England’s kicking game has been its biggest strength this season.