The NFL offseason brings with it a slowed news cycle, but also plenty of time for review and statistical analysis. In the following presentation I'll detail a few of the more surprising lines put up by the 2011 New England Patriots squad.
Their season ended in a less-than-stellar fashion, but it also deserves to be viewed as a whole and not specifically through the lens of the Super Bowl loss.
With that said, here's a look the oddest numbers produced last season.
The fact that an undrafted free agent cornerback from a now-defunct college football program could ascend to the NFL's pick leaderboard is surprising in itself. But most of us know the story of Kyle Arrington and his successful 2011 campaign by now.
What tends to be missed is the second place finisher on that list—nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
The 325-pounder reeled in two circus-like interceptions and managed to rumble for 47 yards on his returns. His average of 23.5 yards per run back was best on the team, in front of the likes of Devin McCourty, Arrington and Sterling Moore.
Take a gander up and down the Patriots defensive stat sheet, and you'll eventually find yourself surprised. Julian Edelman, a college quarterback and wideout in the pros, found himself with more tackles (18) than Shaun Ellis, Josh Barrett and Brandon Deaderick, among many more.
Danny Woodhead got himself involved in the return game, this time on the opposite side of the field. The 5'8'' scat back got himself seven tackles of his own in 2011.
Continuing the trend of playing out of position, Devin McCourty lined up at multiple spots for New England's defense last year. He also returned a kick, and while he only did it once, his average was indeed the highest on the team (24.0).
I mention it because he's been working as a returner during OTAs, and the team may give him a longer look in that role heading forward.
This one ranks as my favorite for the 2011 season purely because of the semantics involved. The term slot receiver should conjure up images of a chain-moving, over-the-middle type of player. While Wes Welker is all of that and more in the slot for the Patriots, he also owned the longest catch of the season.
His 99-yard touchdown against Miami was a major highlight of the season as it came out of nowhere. The next longest catch belonged to Deion Branch, who put together a 63-yard catch and run against Philadelphia.
Welker certainly isn't the deep threat that his taller, faster counterparts are, but miss one tackle and your day on defense just got a lot worse.
The Patriots' pass rush not only improved in 2011, it was more productive at the top of the list than it's been in a long time. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson combined for 20 sacks last season, keeping the pressure on the quarterback all year long.
It was a feat only accomplished twice before, and no Patriots team had had two rushers with double-digit sacks since 1985.
I was negative seven years old when it last happened, so to call the work of those two impressive seems like an understatement.
Tom Brady's 2011 season saw him set career highs in attempts and completions. He also set career marks in passing yards, average per attempt and average per completion.
He finished the year with a 8.6 average, which ranked second in the league. It was the second time in his career that Brady had finished with an average above 8.0, the first instance coming in 2007.
Brady's career yards-per-completion average prior to 2006 was 11.4. He bested that average in 2007 with a 12.1 average and has maintained that level of production ever since.
Brady posted an 11.9 average in 2009 and a 12.0 mark in 2010. The development of and reliance on the Boston TE Party raised that number to 13.0 in 2011.
There have been no signs of age or slowing down out of this future Hall of Famer. With Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney on board for 2012, no one in their right mind would start expecting it now.