Patriots Midterm Grades: Passing Offense

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with teammates in the huddle in the first half against the Dallas Cowboys on October 16, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

We're officially at the mid-point of the Patriots' 2011 season!  That being said, over the course of the next few days, we'll take a quick look at several aspects of the team and leave it to the Pats Pulpit community to grade the Patriots in each category.  At the end of the week, we'll put together a post tallying the results.

Today, we'll start by taking a look at the Patriots passing offense.  While the year started tremendously for the Patriots passing attack, things have slowly gone down hill in recent weeks.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still second in the league in passing yards at 2,703 and is currently third in passing touchdowns (20), yards per attempt (8.4), quarterback rating (100.0), and completion percentage (66.0).  On the flip side, he's tied for the third most interceptions in the NFL at 10, and it has also been clear in recent weeks that Brady's accuracy and decision making aren't at his usual level.

Of course, a team's passing offense goes beyond it's quarterback, and wide receiver Wes Welker is having a terrific year, leading the league in both receptions and yards.  Tight end Rob Gronkowski has also established himself as a top five NFL tight end.  In addition, tight end Aaron Hernandez and receiver Deion Branch have also had respectable seasons.  The issue with the Patriots' receiving corps is that they haven't been able to create enough separation down the field, and teams have been bunching the line of scrimmage in recent weeks because of that.

The Patriots pass protection has also been up and down this year.  Left tackle Matt Light had a terrific start to the year but hasn't looked as sharp in recent weeks.  Logan Mankins has had a very sub-par year according to his standards.  Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has been injured most of the year (replaced by rookie Nate Solder), and has struggled when he's actually played.  Brian Waters has been the best Patriots lineman this year, but the unit as a whole has allowed a lot of hits and a lot of sacks on Tom Brady - 16 sacks total with 12 of them coming in the last four games.

Overall, when grading the offensive passing attack, I have to balance the Patriots' blazing start with the rough patch the attack has hit the past few weeks.  

Greg's Grade: B+

Feel free to discuss your grades in the comments section!

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