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Patriots Progress Report - First Quarter

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We're officially four weeks into the NFL season and the Patriots are off to another great start. New England is sitting at 3-1 and looking really tough to beat. Sure, the defense has been a little shaky, but with Tom Brady at the helm of a high-flying offense, New England has just been outscoring other teams.

This is most definitely a flawed team, and a lot of improvements will need to be made if they're to have any hope of going all the way. They can score enough to get to the playoffs, but can they prevent enough scoring to win once they get there? We'll see as the season progresses. For now, just sit back and watch the offensive fireworks.

On to the Progress Report.

Offense - A+

I'd give this group an extra plus if I didn't think that sort of thing was ridiculous. New England's high-octane attack has been the most productive in the NFL over the first four weeks. Tom Brady has already surpassed 1,500 yards passing, putting him on pace to shatter the current passing yardage record. He's put up 13 touchdown passes to go with just five interceptions (most of which came in one uncharacteristic game against Buffalo). Of course, you don't put up those numbers by yourself. Wide receiver Wes Welker has been a monster in the slot, with 40 catches, five TDs and over 600 yards. The tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski (18 catches, five TDs) and Aaron Hernandez (14 catches, two TDs) will be scary so long as they stay healthy. Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead look solid, while rookie Stevan Ridley looks like a potential star.

Defense - C-

Honestly, this grade should probably be a notch or two lower, but the team is 3-1, so I'm giving them a little bit of a bump. But only a little, because this group has been less than stellar all season. They are dead last in defensive yardage, having given up an average of 477.5 (!) yards per game. However, despite that they have still managed to find the middle of the pack as far as scoring defense, sitting tied for 10th at 24.5 points per game. Looks like it might be another season of 'bend don't break' defense. Essentially, the Patriots need guys like Vince Wilfork and Devin McCourty to step up their games, and so far they have - Wilfork has a sack and two interceptions, while McCourty leads the team in tackles. However, the pass defense needs to improve in a hurry, and the pass rush needs to start getting to the quarterback.

Special Teams - B

Special teams is kind of a tough one for this Patriots squad. The raw numbers for the kicking specialists don't look all that impressive. Stephen Gostkowski has only five field goals this season (though he has kicked 16 extra points) and punter Zoltan Mesko sits in the middle in terms of average yardage. However, one needs to take into account the high-octane offense in all of this. Gostkowski isn't kicking field goals because the Pats are scoring touchdowns; also, his kickoffs have been consistent touchbacks. Mesko's numbers are low because - again due to the offense - he's usually kicking with a much shorter field. Julian Edelman has been solid, if unspectacular as the kick returner, while the return teams have generally looked good.

Coaching - B

I wanted to give the coaching staff a higher mark, but the simple truth of the matter is that I simply can't go any higher after watching this defense for a month. Sure, the offense is impressive - really impressive - but while outscoring opponents will likely work just fine during the regular season, coach Bill Belichick really needs to figure out how to stop somebody if he wants to advance deep into the postseason. Hopefully, the coaching staff can find a better way to integrate the scheme and personnel on the defensive side. As far as the offense? All set. Leave it like it is and enjoy a season of 450 points or more. Fix the defense and this grade goes much higher.

Last modified on Monday, 21 November 2011 13:40

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