Patriots Midseason Report Card

The New England Patriots wrapped up the first half of 2014 with a dominant victory over the Denver Broncos, their fifth win in a row after a rough start. Before the Patriots resume their season on Sunday night, let's grade the results so far.

When the 2014 season began, Patriot fans were convinced that this was the best team they had fielded in over a decade. After a 2-2 start and getting absolutely dominated in Kansas City, fans and the team alike feared for the worst. Per usual, Bill Belichick and his consistently tough Patriots figured out their problems, then ripped off five straight impressive wins to enter the bye week at 7-2. Today we grade the offensive starters and tomorrow the defensive grades are released. Let's take a look at the offense.

Quarterback- Tom Brady

Brady, like the rest of the team, didn't look right over the first month. His timing was off with his receivers and he just wasn't himself. The main reason for Brady' troubles was the offensive line. With the loss of Mankins (traded in preseason) and Dante Scarnecchia (retired), growing pains were inevitable. After the debacle in Kansas City, the offensive line, Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski all got it together and Brady has been the MVP of the league since. Brady has compiled 2,392 yards passing, 22 touchdown passes and his QB Rating is 103.5. Grade: A

Running Backs- Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley, James Develin

It is hard to grade the Patriots running backs because they've had so much inconsistency at the position in 2014. Stevan Ridley was starting to run well and not fumbling, but that came to an abrupt end when he tore his knee up in Week Six versus the Bills. Ridley finished the season with 94 carries for 340 yards, averaging 3.6 yards per carry, which is below his career average of 4.3. Shane Vereen has picked up the slack for Ridley, but a huge chunk of his overall yardage comes in the passing game. Vereen has 69 carries for 310 yards (4.5 ypc) and he also has 31 catches for 246 yards. Vereen just doesn't have the ability to run with power between the tackles; it simply isn't his game. Jonas Gray, the rookie out of Notre Dame, has earned playing time since Stevan Ridley went down and has run very well between the tackles when called upon. James Develin doesn't carry the ball, but he has been an effective blocker and makes the occasional catch that typically goes for a first down. The Patriots are averaging 101.2 yards rushing per game, which places them 19th in the NFL. Overall Grade: C+

Wide Receivers- Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Matthew Slater, Brian Tyms

Edelman has received the most targets and he was Tom Brady' go-to-guy in the beginning of the season. Edelman has 54 catches for 554 yards and two touchdowns; he's also averaging 13 yards per punt return with a huge touchdown return vs. Denver. Brandon LaFell went through some growing pains to begin the season, but has emerged as one of the top weapons in the Patriots offense. LaFell has 36 catches for 514 yards and five touchdowns; LaFell may be the best free-agent wide receiver the Pats have signed in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. Danny Amendola, he of the nine catches for 81 yards and one touchdown, has been very disappointing in his second season in New England. Amendola' salary and production are WAY out of whack; Amendola is most likely in his final season as a Patriot. Aaron Dobson is still battling a foot injury and surgery from the offseason; Dobson has been inactive for six of the nine games in 2014. Bryan Tyms only has one catch on the season but it was a 43-yard touchdown. Matthew Slater is listed as a wide receiver but he is truly just a special teams ace. Overall Grade: B

Tight Ends- Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Michael Hoomanawanui

Gronkowski automatically brings this grade up due to his ridiculous ability and production. Gronk has 49 catches for 663 yards and eight touchdowns, which puts him on pace for roughly 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns. When Gronkowski is healthy, only Calvin Johnson is as dangerous a weapon in the entire NFL. Tim Wright hasn't been great in 2014, but he also had to come in and learn a complex offense. Wright has 17 catches (on 18 targets) for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Wright hasn't had a ton of production, but he has been extremely efficient with his limited opportunities. Michael Hoomanawanui has been essentially non-existent, compiling two catches for 21 yards, although he has been active for all nine games while starting seven. Overall Grade: A

Offensive Line- Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell, Brian Stork, Dan Connelly, Nate Solder

This group had a rough start to the season, which was obvious by looking at the film of the first four games. The main problem was at the guard and center position. Marcus Cannon was removed, as was rookie Jordan Devey, and things started to come together from there. Rookie Brian Stork was made the starting center, which solidified the center and guard position too. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connelly were able to flank Stork and that's made a huge difference. Nate Solder was awful to start the season, but he's also coming around. Sebastian Vollmer has been the most consistent performer up front. Because of the terrible first month, the grade will be lower, but this group has played at an A-level since Week Five. Overall Grade: B-

Overall Offense/Offensive Coordinator

A's aren't easy, and although the Patriots have played some A-games and have players that make the grade, the first quarter of the season cannot be ignored. Overcoming the Stevan Ridley injury has been impressive, but if the Patriots want to have an effective offense in January, they need to get the running game going. Josh McDaniels also factors into this overall grade; he has had some odd play-calls and doesn't seem to understand basic clock management. This offense still has room to grow. Offense Overall Grade: B+

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