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…
Grades are only for players who played snaps on defense. The criteria used is how the player performed compared to the average NFL player at his position this season only (it is not a projection or comment of a player’s future), and injuries are not taken into account because the information is incomplete. Role on special teams not taken into account. Grade chart:
A: Elite player (top 4-5 at position).
B: Good starter (top 10-15).
C: Average starter/reserve.
D: Starter/reserve and in danger of being replaced.
F: Reserve/should be replaced.
Plus: Ascending player this season.
Kyle Van Noy (80.8 percent playing time): After playing a little bit all over the place his first few seasons in New England (sometimes because of injuries to others), Van Noy really settled in on the edge the past two seasons and was arguably, on a down-to-down basis, the team's MVP this season. Van Noy led the team in every pass-rushing stat (sacks, hits, hurries and total QB pressures) and was also the best edge player against the run, even with missing the first game for the birth of his first child. Far from the most physically gifted player, Van Noy used his smarts and leverage to win on the edge. One mild concern, and it could affect his free agency: Van Noy had 29 of his pressures in a nine-game stretch (3.2 average) after Week 1. He had 12 in the final seven games (1.7). In many ways, you could say that was emblematic of the defense as a whole and, perhaps, that unit went how Van Noy went.
John Simon (47.6%):