Grading the 2018 Patriots: Defensive resurgence led way for more-balanced team

(Adam Richins for BSJ)

Before an NFL team turns the page on the previous season and moves forward to the next, they put the team and their players under a microscope to see what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be changed/altered to make progress in 2019.

That goes, yes, even for Super Bowl champions.

Obviously, we have no idea what the Patriots’ internal grading looks like, and we don’t anticipate Bill Belichick opening up his grade book anytime soon. So, we’re left to do our homework with some assistance from people who have knowledge of how the Patriots view things.

So we’ll start our dissection (which is an homage to my mentor, Bob McGinn) with an overview of the team and positions, and then we’ll move onto individual player grades/assessments. Finally, we’ll conclude with our imitated but never duplicated offseason depth chart coded for performance and contract status, and with a comprehensive analysis of team needs headed into the ’19 offseason.

And with that, let's get started...

The 2018 season ended in surprising fashion — considering where they were after back-to-back December losses to the Dolphins and Steelers — with a 13-3 defensive victory in Super Bowl LIII over the Rams.

The biggest takeaway from the 2018 Patriots? The defense had a huge resurgence as all three units showed improvement — vast from the linebackers and secondary, the most-improved unit on the team.

The positional group with the largest drop from 2017 might surprise you.

Let's start off with the '18 grades on a per-game basis. Please note that due to the averages and the fact that I don't give out many 4.0s each week (I'm a tough grader; might need to loosen those up a little), the grading should roughly be viewed as:

Coming next: Team grades in eight categories.

A: 4.0-3.2
B: 3.1-2.75
C: 2.74-2.25
D: 2.24-2
F: Below 2