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.
On Tuesday, we took the time to grade the Patriots rushing and passing offense. Today, we'll take a look at the defensive side of the ball halfway through the season, starting with the rushing defense.
In terms of total yards allowed, the Patriots remain within the top 10 of the NFL (9th). They've shut down good running attacks such as those deployed by the Jets and Raiders. Nonetheless, teams are averaging 4.3 yards per carry against the Patriots rush defense, and it has been apparent that the team's ability to stop the run isn't as good as it once was.
Still, there's no question that when the Patriots try to stop the run, they can still be among the best. The teams run defense in short yardage, red zone, and goal line defense is very indicative of that. The Patriots still have players such as Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, and Jerod Mayo who can disrupt the run, and I think that the return of players such as Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick can also serve to help.
The thing that I've liked about the Patriots rush defense thus far this year is that they have been pretty consistent. They haven't allowed any huge games to any particular running back. Aside from a couple of mid-sized runs, they also haven't allowed any huge gains through the ground either. While the team's ability to stop the run is no where near perfect, it is clear that this is a pretty consistent unit that probably won't be gashed against the run too often (although I'm fearing the Jets this Sunday with Brandon Spikes likely out and Jerod Mayo still a bit hobbled).
Greg's Grade: B
Feel free to discuss your grades in the comments section!