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 2020.
Obviously, we have no idea what the Patriots’ internal grading looks like, and we don’t anticipate Bill Belichick opening up his grade book to the public 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 a 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 ’20 offseason.
Part I: Grading the 2019 Patriots: Patriots were better overall, but tilted too much to the defense; Brady improved
Part II — Team grades for passing offense, rushing offense.
Part III — Team grades for passing defense, rushing defense, special teams.
Part IV — Team grades for personnel moves, coaching and overall.
Part V—Individual offensive grades.
Now: Part VI—Individual defensive grades.
And with that, let's get started...
The 2019 Patriots season was unlike any other. They started 8-0 against a soft schedule and then finished 4-5 to have their season end in wild-card weekend for the first time in a decade.
The biggest takeaway from the 2019 Patriots? They were better this season than last season over the course of 17 games, but they were way too defensive-heavy. In the end, they would have been better off being less talented on defense and helping the offense a bit more.
The positional group with the largest drop from 2018 probably won't surprise you, and will explain what's been going on the last two seasons.
And Tom Brady was indeed better this year than he was a season ago.
Let's start off with the '19 grades on a per-game basis. Please note that due to the averages and the fact that I don't give out many 5.0s 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.
F: Below 2