The New England Patriots have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL, and possibly the most balanced in the Bill Belichick era. The Patriots have six players with 350+ yards from scrimmage halfway through the season, putting them on pace to surpass the 2011 and 2012 Patriots for number players with 700+ yards from scrimmage over a full season.
“That's what makes this game so awesome, it's a team game,” Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski said after Sunday’s 41-25 victory over the Bills. “It's not about individuals at all and just dispersing the ball. [QB Tom Brady] is doing such a great job. If you look at the stat sheet everyone probably had three, four, five catches, just six guys. It's just awesome. You don't know what you're going to get, you don't know who he's going to throw it to.
“And everyone is working hard. Everyone works hard to get open, and we all try to help each other out so, it's just a huge part of our game and it's definitely a huge part of our offense. Giving the ball to a lot of players helps out big time.”
The 2011 Patriots had five players with 700+ yards from scrimmage: WR Wes Welker (1,599), TE Rob Gronkowski (1,329), TE Aaron Hernandez (955), RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (826), and WR Deion Branch (702).
The 2012 Patriots also had five players eclipse that milestone: WR Wes Welker (1,374), RB Stevan Ridley (1,314), WR Brandon Lloyd (911), TE Rob Gronkowski (790), and RB Danny Woodhead (747).
The six members of the 2016 Patriots on pace are RB LeGarrette Blount (640; on pace for 1,280), TE Rob Gronkowski (484; 968), TE Martellus Bennett (408; 816), WR Julian Edelman (397; 794), WR Chris Hogan (393; 786), and RB James White (365; 730).
As you can see, the Patriots are spreading the ball more in 2016 with just one player on pace for 1,000+ yards from scrimmage, and are less concentrated in just a pair of high performers.
The Patriots are joined by Washington as the only teams in the NFL with 6 players over 350 yards from scrimmage on the season; no other team has more than 4.
Most teams rely on multiple running backs to produce yardage, like the Bengals or Falcons, but teams rarely run plays with both running backs on the field. This is why it’s so advantageous for the Patriots to have four receivers (Gronkowski, Bennett, Edelman, Hogan) that can carry the offense. Washington also has four players, while the Packers, Jaguars, Rams, and Saints are the only other teams with three players.
Now it’s clear that the Patriots players have been affected by injuries. Edelman’s foot clearly is not yet 100%, Bennett has been limited with his ankle problem, and Gronkowski pretty much missed the first quarter of the season. QB Jacoby Brissett’s injury really impacted the passing production:
Patriots WR Chris Hogan splits by QB:— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) October 31, 2016
Garoppolo: 71.3 YPG
Brissett: 6.0 YPG
Brady: 67.8 YPG
I don’t think it’s out of the question for Blount, Gronkowski, Bennett, Edelman, and/or Hogan to reach 1,000 yards this season if they come out of the bye week healthy, although I would only say Blount and Gronkowski have a good chance of reaching the mark. I would think Bennett, Edelman, and Hogan have a good chance of reaching 800 yards, with one of them surpassing 900 on the year.
The return of RB Dion Lewis could change the offensive calculus and WR Danny Amendola is always good for a surprise 100+ yard game or two down the road.
But no matter what happens, the 2016 Patriots offense is one of the most balanced in recent memory- and it’s only going to get better.