Unit by Unit Comparison
Evaluating the potential of the 2014 team by comparing it to other Patriots teams of the last decade… or more accurately, comparing components/units.
The goal of this is to give a general idea of the level of achievement we can hope for from this team, by comparing the ‘on paper’ talent assembled for this season, to the top rated (based on stats, production, and my opinion) units of the last ten years.
I will grade this on a 1 to 100 scale, with 100 being the grade of the best unit of the decade, and the grade given being where I believe 2014 stands in comparison.
Starting with QB –
2014 -- Tom Brady – Ryan Mallet – Jimmy G
Tom Brady set records in 2007 across the board, 2014’s version of Brady is a tad less mobile, a tad less reckless with his body, but other than that, TFB is still TFB, how healthy and how talented the players are around him will make the real difference in how they perform this year.
GRADE - 99
Now, let’s compare the WR position -
For one season, the Patriots assembled a wealth of proven (and still young) veteran players that Brady shredded the NFL with. The players of 2014 do not match that level of talent, not under the best of circumstances … and unfortunately Edelman, Amendola, and Dobson (arguably the most talented 3 on the team) have a history of injuries on their resumes, which also has to be considered.
The one thing the 2014 unit looks to have, is they literally have six quality players on the roster that deserve to make the cut. Where as in 2007, they had the noted top four players, and then a bunch of nothing after that.
2007 - Wes Welker (112 REC, 1,175 YDS, 8 TD), Randy Moss (98 REC, 1,493 YDS, 23 TD), Donte Stallworth (46 REC, 697 YDS, 3 TD), Jabar Gaffney (36 REC 449 YDS 5 TD)
In 2007, the Patriots replaced their worst receiving corps of the Brady era with what was certainly their best, and while 2014 is not as good, it’s likely to be the second or third best unit overall Brady has worked with and will likely put up the numbers in 2014 to prove it.
GRADE – 85
Moving on to the TE position –
2014 – Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, ???
In 2010 the TE position had undergone a complete overhaul just as the WR position had in 2007. Gronk and Hernandez were drafted, and still capable Crumpler was brought in via FA, and the TEs of previous seasons were shown the door… and few games into the season, so too was Randy Moss.
The ability of 2010’s trio of TEs was so potent and obvious, that then OC O’Brien decided to move on from the go-deep go-often to Moss mindset, to an offense more orientated on the TEs. In 2011 the two TEs, in their second season, tore through the NFL like no TE duo ever had.
2011 – Rob Gronkowski (90 REC, 1327 YDS, 17 TD) Aaron Hernandez (79 REC 910 YDS 7 TD)
Gronk has suffered multiple serious injuries since that breakout season, and hasn’t played a full season since. Hernandez is rotting away in jail, and Hooman has proven to be a serviceable TE who will likely improve a small amount this season, but I expect no major leap. The Patriots may bring in a veteran presence, or one of the unheralded (and undrafted) rookies may exceed all expectations and produce exceptionally well… or Gronkowski may actually have a season where he remains on the field for most of the 16 game (plus playoffs) season. That’s what dreams are made of.
GRADE – 76
RB – HB – FB position –
2004 was the best production the Patriots had ever gotten from one RB in their entire history, not much else need be said.
2004 – Corey Dillon (345 CAR, 1635 YDS, 12 TD) Kevin Faulk (54 CAR, 255 YDS, 2 TD) including receptions, these two accounted for well over 2,000 yards of offense in 2004.
Ridley has ability but fumbles too much, Vereen is all that Kevin Faulk was and more, he just can’t stay healthy, White is a rookie with potential to be as good as Vereen, and Develin and Houston both could land on the 53 man roster .for a variety of reasons. Both can play the role of up the middle pounder.
GRADE – 86
O-LINE one big unit –
OK, O-line is not my forte, in fact, for the record, it’s by far the position I’m least familiar with or capable of judging. And since I’m not a stats h***, this is literally the toughest unit for me to judge. That said…
The O-line had a very solid season in 2011 with Guards Brian Waters and Logan Mankins being named to the Pro-Bowl.
With the OL, it all comes down to sacks allowed, and they gave up only 32 which was tied for 9th fewest in the NFL that year. They also had 18 rushing touchdowns, tied for 3rd most in the NFL. Matt Light had his best year in many seasons and rookie Nate Solder played very well.
The performance of the O-line this season hinges largely on two things, how well the new OL coach does with them, and how well the rookies perform when called on. The Patriots have three drafted rookies who are almost locks to make the roster, they are all likely to be called on at some point during the season, the rookie trio - Center, Guard, and Tackle – will make or break this unit in 2014.
GRADE – 93
OVERALL GRADE FOR THE OFFENSE – 88
I don’t see any unit that is likely to be overpowering… as the WRs were in 2007, or the TEs were in 2011, but what I see is the potential to be a very well balanced Offense, capable of attacking an opponent in almost every way possible… and that will be its biggest strength, shut down any one aspect of this Offense, and they should be able to switch over to attacking a Defense in another way with just as much success. Take away the deep part of the field, and expose the middle, or open oneself up to the screen, or be blown away by the O-line that vanguards the RB down the runway…
This is where the ability of Brady comes to the fore… his ability to read the D, make the right call, and get the ball into the hands of the playmakers around him as well as anyone… with a healthy Gronk, and a RB that can hang onto the football, the offense will be nearly unstoppable so long as the O-line holds up its end of the deal.
Without a healthy Gronk, and a reliable RB, the offense will be merely functional, not exceptional, and certainly not unstoppable. The difference is, one that makes it look easy to score 40 points… and one that struggles against good teams to score 20.