By: Ryan Fay
We have completed a Patriots season where a pandemic shuffled the schedule, a certain quarterback moved south, and the Patriots did not make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Patriots season has been far from normal. Here are 3 positive and 3 negative thoughts from a pessimistic fan who has only known a dynasty. Let’s start with the positives.
- Jakobi Meyers
Jakobi Meyers was just about excluded from Tom Brady’s targets last year. Going into this season Meyers was a mystery. This season started to look like more of the same, posting 5 receptions in his first 4 games. Then, Meyers had a breakout game on national TV against the Jets. After the Jets game, Meyers posted a yards per catch of at least 10 in all games but one. Meyers looks like he has gone from an undrafted mystery to a solid receiver for the Patriots’ future.
- The Offensive Line
There were many holes in the Patriots’ offense, but there was one bright spot. Although being hurt by injuries at times the offensive line was strong this season. Last year there were many holes in the offensive line with David Andrews and Isiah Wynn being hurt. This year the Patriots turned that around with a breakout season from Mike Onwenu and the return of Wynn and Andrews. Even with the loss of legendary coach Dante Scarnecchia, the offensive line looks like it can be the foundation of the future of the Patriots’ offense.
- Special Teams
It is crazy to think that a bright spot of the Patriots is the special teams unit but here we are. The Patriots have spent the most money on their special teams unit. You get what you pay for with this unit. Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel have been elite at downing punts from Jake Bailey. Gunner Olszewski has been good in the return game, as well. The Patriots special teams is a nice bright spot in a dark season
Now, time for the negatives:
- Quarterback Play
I know this is obvious. Number twelve is no longer roaming the sidelines and commanding the huddle. The one thing that is glaring, the trust in the quarterback. The feeling of being down 24-21 and knowing Brady will be able to get down the field for a touchdown. The feeling that the quarterback wouldn’t throw an interception or lead you to a 3 and out. Watching a quarterback that isn’t able to effortlessly get up the field, let alone get into field goal range is frustrating. The quarterback position is one of the most important in sports and it is difficult to win with a weak quarterback. The Patriots have to find a good quarterback and fast.
- The Offense
We know that the Patriots’ offense isn’t the Chiefs or a loaded offense with star players, it is a traditional running offense. The offense is built around the backfield of James White, Damien Harris, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead. The Patriots are 5th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, which is actually very good. The passing offense, which I don’t expect to have tremendous success, has not been great. Living in the basement of the league in passing offense, the Patriots are 24th in the league in passing yards per game. With many holes and many free agents, there will be a lot of turnover in this offense.
Around New England, Bill Belichick is known as a football god. “In Bill we trust” frequently litters the signs raised by passionate fans and chanted by fanatic Bostonians who made the trek down Route 1 to see the Patriots. Bill Belichick is also the general manager of the team and controls the draft. It is a known fact that the best way to build a good sports team is to draft well. Belichick has not done that. The Patriots have not drafted a pro bowl player in the draft since 2013. If a team can’t draft talent they won’t have a stream of young talent to replace old players. Although players like Chase Winovich and Damien Harris are good, they should not be standouts of your recent draft history. Players like Joe Thuney, James White, and Shaq Mason are the top 3 players you have drafted since 2014. In comparison, the top 3 draftees since 2014 in my opinion are Josh Allen, Tre’Davious White, and Ed Oliver. The Patriots have drafted players like Trey Flowers and Jimmy Garoppolo, but they have failed to keep them around. Jimmy Garoppolo would have certainly helped this year. Even though this year’s draft class has had some bright spots in Mike Onwenu, they have not shown any more bright spots. If Belichick’s drafting pattern continues, the Patriots will get worse and worse.
The Patriots aren’t the Patriots of old. We won’t get a parade (pandemic or not) to celebrate another Lombardi Trophy. Sadly, I see the days of the dynasty are over. We won’t have playoff football in Foxboro. The Patriots face a long offseason with many holes to fill. We have never had to say this but, on to next year.