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Patriots midseason report card: Grading Bill Belichick, the coaches, and special teams

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How did special teams and the coaching staff fare over the first half of the season?

We’re halfway through the season and it’s time to dish out grades for the New England Patriots. I polled the staff and created a report card. There were no rules or criteria. It could be based on your own sentiments, compared to the league, or in a vacuum. Feel free to give your own grades in the comments.

Here are the rest.

Special Teams: C+

The troubles for K Stephen Gostkowski are well documented. He has changed his positioning and kicking motion on his field goals and extra points and he lacks his traditional control over his torso. His kicking has been poor. His kickoffs have been outstanding, though, and deserve some credit. The Patriots kickoff coverage unit has been the best in the league.

P Ryan Allen has been inconsistent, although he was the Special Teams Player of the Week against the Texans. LS Mean Joe Cardona has been pretty consistent all year.

Outlook: What is usually a strength of the Patriots has become a wild ride this year. Gostkowski needs to work out his kicking motion over the bye week and then everything seems like it will work out.

Coaching Staff: A-

Bill Belichick might receive a lot of grief for trading ED Chandler Jones and LB Jamie Collins, but the Patriots went freaking 3-1 over the first quarter of the season with the 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks. Trading QB Tom Brady would be the only move that could overshadow the first quarter of the season.

OC Josh McDaniels has called a clean game all year, maximizing the strengths of the back-up quarterbacks, and OL coach Dante Scarnecchia has been a savior.

DC Matt Patricia needs some work as the defense is struggling to generate pressure and to cover, which is a pretty bad combination. That said, the run defense has been outstanding against a slate of good rushing teams.

Possibly underrated has been the Patriots health this season. The Patriots fired Strength and Conditioning coach Harold Nash over the offseason and promoted Moses Cabrera. Other than a few soft tissue problems in the preseason, and some unavoidable injuries like ankle sprains and concussions, the Patriots have been healthy all season.

Outlook: The offense will continue to improve as players like TE Martellus Bennett and RB Dion Lewis return to health, and while WR Chris Hogan, LG Joe Thuney, OC David Andrews, and RG Shaq Mason get more experience in the system.

The defense will need to come up with a new game plan that maximizes the skill sets of the players on the roster because the current pass defense will sink the Patriots against a quality quarterback (that they might not face until the playoffs).