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Breaking down the Patriots’ drop numbers from the 2019 season

Related: Taking a look at potential wide receiver targets for the Patriots in this year’s draft

NFL: NOV 03 Patriots at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ offense started the year hot but cooled off significantly as it went along. One area in particular in which the unit struggled was moving the football through the air despite having future Hall of Famer Tom Brady at quarterback. While Brady shares some of the blame for the inconsistent and ultimately insufficient production of the Patriots’ passing game, the receiving corps that surrounded him is arguably the biggest culprit.

With superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski no longer a part of the equation due to his retirement, the unit failed to field consistent receiving threats outside of wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White. The rest of the skill position players was incapable of picking up the slack, but even one of Brady’s two favorite weapons had some ups and downs over the course of the 2019 season as a look at one area in particular shows: drops.

Drops were only one part of the issue with the Patriots’ aerial attack last year, but they are a rather prominent illustration of the shortcomings of the pass catching group. So with that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into the matter to find out how exactly the drop numbers look like for New England’s 16 regular season games as well as its wild card playoff loss against the Tennessee Titans.

Wide receiver drop statistics

Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Phillip Dorsett II WR 60 30 30 0 0.0%
Gunner Olszewski WR 4 2 2 0 0.0%
Julian Edelman WR 152 114 103 11 9.6%
Jakobi Meyers WR 40 29 26 3 10.3%
Mohamed Sanu WR 48 31 27 4 12.9%
N'Keal Harry WR 31 17 14 3 17.6%
Pro Football Focus

As can be seen, only two of the Patriots’ wide receivers were not credited even with a single drop over the course of last season: Phillip Dorsett and Gunner Olszewski (even though their target share looks quite different). Dorsett going 30-for-30 in terms of making receptions on catchable balls thrown his way is certainly impressive considering that he was one of only five players in the league last season to accomplish the feat while seeing 30+ passes thrown his way. Unfortunately, however, his overall production was rather limited and overshadows his drop-less campaign.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are four wide receivers that were featured quite prominently in the Patriots’ passing game in 2019, and all four had their fair share of drops. The aforementioned Julian Edelman let 11 of 114 catchable passes go through his hands for a drop rate of 9.6%. During the regular season, when he dropped 10 of 110 targets for a rate of 9.1%, the Super Bowl MVP was tied for just 132nd among the NFL’s qualifying skill position players.

Despite that, Edelman was actually one of the more reliable pass catchers in New England last year in terms of making receptions on catchable balls: Jakobi Meyers had a drop rate of 10.3%, while Mohamed Sanu, who arrived via in-season trade from the Atlanta Falcons in late October, finished his first half-season with the club at 12.9%. The proverbial cake, however, is taken by first-round rookie N’Keal Harry who let 17.6% of the catchable balls thrown his way hit the ground.

Meyers, Sanu and Harry have a lot of work to do during the offseason in order to provide the Patriots with a reliable group of wide receivers in 2020. Making sure to come away with catchable passes has to be one part of this.

Running back drop statistics

Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Jakob Johnson FB 2 1 1 0 0.0%
James White RB 95 79 77 2 2.5%
Rex Burkhead RB 38 31 30 1 3.2%
Brandon Bolden RB 11 10 9 1 10.0%
Sony Michel RB 22 19 15 4 21.1%
Pro Football Focus

The running backs fared a bit better than the wide receivers when it comes to drops — which is only natural considering that the depth of target is usually a lot closer to the line of scrimmage at the position. It is therefore no surprise that the Patriots’ primary receiving weapons out of the backfield both finished with a drop share under 4%: James White and Rex Burkhead combined to register just three drops on 110 catchable targets.

Two other backs did not quite find the same success. While Brandon Bolden saw comparatively few passes thrown his way considering his role as a core special teamer and emergency running back, Sony Michel struggled with drops in 2019: the second-year man was targeted 22 times, with 19 of those passes arriving in a catchable manner but only 15 being actually caught for a drop rate of 21.1% — the highest on the entire roster.

Michel is no dual-threat running back at this point in time, but luckily the Patriots do not need him to be: James White remains one of the better receiving backs in all of football, with Burkhead a solid change-of-pace option as well.

Tight end drop statistics

Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Name Position Total Targets Catchable Passes Receptions Drops Drop Rate
Ryan Izzo TE 8 6 6 0 0.0%
Benjamin Watson TE 27 25 20 3 12.0%
Matt LaCosse TE 19 15 13 2 13.3%
Pro Football Focus

All year long, the Patriots’ tight end position struggled to consistently contribute to the team’s offense — and the drop rates are another illustration of this even though second-year man Ryan Izzo finished the season without a drop on six catchable targets. Izzo’s first true season in the league, however, saw him receive only limited opportunities as New England preferred to move forward with Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson over the second half of the season.

Unfortunately, neither LaCosse nor Watson proved themselves capable of filling Rob Gronkowski’s enormous shoes — and the duo dropping a combined five passes on just 40 catchable targets was one part of the problem. The two did get their fair share of chances, but were unable to take advantage of them. As a result, the Patriots will likely try to upgrade their tight end position significantly over the course of this year’s offseason.