For all that went wrong for the Patriots during the first nine weeks of the season, the reality is that New England is 5-4 and received some great performances in the first half.
Yeah, the offense (including quarterback Mac Jones) is a broken mess, but the group still has provided some reasons for optimism. And the defense clearly has been the Patriots’ best and most reliable unit, despite a few underwhelming outings.
With all that in mind, we decided to look at which Patriots players earned the top overall Pro Football Focus grades over the first nine weeks. PFF’s grades carry plenty of caveats, but they still are solid indicators of a given player’s level of play.
Here are the top 10:
1. RB Rhamondre Stevenson (89.6)
The sophomore back has emerged as one of the best all-around running backs in football, showing huge improvements as both a receiver and as a pass blocker. Stevenson also has done a great job of taking care of the football, something Bill Belichick made note of Tuesday afternoon. The 2021 fourth-round pick entered the bye week with 618 rushing yards and four touchdowns to go along with 35 catches for 227 yards and a score.
2. CB Jack Jones (86.9)
The fourth-round rookie was a polarizing draft back but has made the Patriots look smart since Day 1 of spring practices. Jones’ breakout performance came in New England’s Week 4 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, with his pick-six against Aaron Rodgers showing what kind of playmaker he can be. The Arizona State product pulled off an even better interception the following week and was excellent in coverage the last month.
3. RG Mike Onwenu (86.0)
Many argue that the Patriots should move Onwenu back to right tackle, but the reality is he’s become one of the best guards in the NFL. The third-year pro is someone that coaches almost never have to worry about, as he quietly does his job at a high level on weekly basis. Onwenu deserves Pro Bowl consideration.
4. CB Jonathan Jones (79.1)
The veteran’s transition to outside corner has been seamless. Jones’ speed and coverage skills are elite, and the former slot cornerback is one of the more highly respected players in the Patriots locker room. The bad news: He’s set to become free agent this offseason.
5. LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (78.0)
Bentley isn’t a star, and his issues in pass coverage show up against some of the league’s better offenses. But he also is New England’s leading tackler (54) and was voted a team captain before the start of the season. He’s a solid, dependable linebacker who provides physicality and leadership at the second level of the defense.
6. DL Deatrich Wise (76.2)
Wise is off to the best and busiest start of his career. The sixth-year pro already has set a career-high in sacks with 5 1/2 and is 17 tackles away from tying his personal best. Wise also is seeing a ton of playing time, as he played 80% of defensive snaps in the first nine weeks. His previous career-high was 56%, set in 2020. The Patriots need him to hold up, because he’s been one of their best players since the start of the season.
7. LB Matthew Judon (75.5)
You might be surprised that Judon doesn’t rank higher, but his relatively low PFF grades are nothing new. He consistently grades out as good-not-great in both pass coverage and run defense but makes up for it with his excellent pass rushing. In any case, Judon was an absolute force in the first half, racking up an NFL-leading 11 1/2 sacks in nine games. He has a chance to rewrite multiple record books.
8. WR Jakobi Meyers (75.1)
Meyers leads the Patriots in receptions (40) and receiving yards (457) despite missing two games due to a knee injury. It’s scary to think where the offense would be without Meyers, who far and a way is Mac Jones’ most trusted and productive target. He also will be a free agent next offseason.
9. S Jabrill Peppers (74.6)
It took Peppers a while to work his way back from the ACL injury he suffered last season while with the New York Giants, but he now appears to be all the way back. A physical force on both defense and special teams, Peppers is forcing his way into a more consistent role for the Patriots. It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s used in the second half when New England has all of its safeties available.
10. CB Marcus Jones (71.9)
The Patriots’ other rookie corner hasn’t played much — one of the caveats to consider with PFF’s grades — but has impressed in his limited snaps. The third-rounder also has emerged as a needed weapon in the kicking game. Jones’ speed and ball skills are legit, but he might not be a consistent contributor until next season.