New York Jets vs. New England Patriots: Full Roster Grades for New England
Instead, they got to see a sputtering offense that nearly drove Tom Brady to histrionics.
The Patriots escaped with a 13-10 win, but myriad questions remain about the team as a whole. As the rain fell down in droves during the second half, doubts about Brady's receiving corps crept into the minds of fans seated in Gillette Stadium.
Check out the grades for each Patriots player against the Jets.
Tom Brady: B-
I often say that 2006 was, perhaps, Tom Brady's most incredible year as a quarterback, despite seemingly pedestrian numbers. However, what he did with the likes of Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell as his lead receivers was actually quite impressive. This might be a similar year—Brady having to squeeze every last ounce of offense out of a team that is lacking in areas.
Brady started off smooth, efficiently moving the ball down the field on the opening touchdown drive. After hitting Aaron Dobson for a 39-yard touchdown pass, it seemed that the rout was on.
Instead, Dobson and his fellow teammates forgot how to catch the ball. When Brady and his receivers were on the same page—which wasn't all that often—they often put the ball on the ground.
His stats, 19-of-39 and 185 yards don't tell the whole story. Brady got the most out his receivers that he could.
Stevan Ridley: C+
The running game was non-existent for the Patriots, as a stout defensive front for the Jets held Ridley in check throughout the night.
Ridley took his 16 carries for 40 yards like a man. He held on to the ball with only one minor hiccup—a bobble on a toss play—in weather where fumble-prone running backs tend not to perform well. Ridley ran hard and was patient when he needed to be.
It wasn't a pretty box score, but Ridley got what was blocked for him and probably a yard or two more.
Leon Washington: C+
Washington was the fill-in for the injured Shane Vereen. He certainly didn't have the impact that Vereen did against the Buffalo Bills, but was solid in his assignments.
He had a couple of good blocks in pass protections and made a heady play, sprinting back to where Tom Brady was, dumping the ball to avoid an intentional-grounding penalty.
LeGarrette Blount: C+
Like Ridley, Blount didn't find many holes against the likes of Jets defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson. Blount was reliable in pass protection, though.
James Develin: C+
You don't often see a fullback split out wide, but Develin did just that multiple times. He was adequate blocking on screens and in the run game, but he wasn't a force by any means.
Michael Hoomanawanui: C
Rob Gronkowski is sorely missed, both in the run and the pass game. Hoomanawanui didn't earn a target from Brady, despite seeing the field for 61 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
When blocking, he fared a bit better, although he was responsible for some pressure on Tom Brady.
Matthew Mulligan: C-
When Zach Sudfeld and Rob Gronkowski get healthy—which could come as soon as Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—I'd expect Mulligan to get cut.
He offers nothing in the passing game and is merely an average blocker in the Patriots up-tempo, movement-based offense.
Julian Edelman: A+
After 13 catches and numerous punt returns, Tom Brady should have purchased Edelman his very own ice tub.
Filling in for the injured Danny Amendola, Edelman was the lone consistent member of the receiving corps for Tom Brady. Other than one poor read, Edelman was in the right spot and showed off his great hands and elusiveness after the catch.
If Danny Amendola isn't back for Week 3, the Patriots are in good hands with Edelman.
Aaron Dobson: C-
Rookies are just that, rookies. Dobson caught a 39-yard pass for a touchdown on the first play of his career. The next few plays—highlighted by a few bad drops—he'd just as soon forget.
However, Dobson was able to bounce back and convert an important third down against none other than Antonio Cromartie. Dobson used motion to gain a clean release and then plucked the ball out of the air on the slant route—finally correcting a longstanding tendency to let the ball get into his pads on that route.
When you look at just the lowlights, it is easy to give Dobson a failing grade. Taking into account his downfield blocking and contributions in the passing game should give Dobson a more respectable outcome.
Kenbrell Thompkins: C-
Like Dobson, Thompkins had his moments—some good, some bad.
He nearly came down with what would have been the catch of the year so far, but the diving touchdown was overturned upon review.
If Thompkins can keep his feet on the ground during the catching motion and concentrate on plucking the ball rather than allowing it into his body, he can overcome his slow start to the season.
One area of improvement for Thompkins: The amount of mental mistakes was way down this week compared to last.
Josh Boyce: I
Boyce only saw the field for two snaps by my count, not earning a target. Look for Boyce to get more looks once Gronkowski can occupy the safeties.
Sebastian Vollmer: A-
Vollmer hasn't looked himself at times over the last few months, struggling with his lateral movement. Against the Jets, however, he was a dominant presence.
On many of the successful runs—which were few and far between—Vollmer was right there leading the way. According to my notes, he gave up only one pressure in the passing game on 41 passing plays.
The Patriots need to see this Vollmer each week.
Logan Mankins: B-
Mankins wasn't perfect against the Jets. He gave up one sack and didn't get much push in the run game. However, his toughness and leadership set the tone in a physical game.
Nate Solder: C+
Solder had a couple of uncharacteristic penalties in the game as well as giving up two pressures on Tom Brady in the passing game. Left tackles need to be near perfection in the NFL, and Solder wasn't there against the Jets.
Ryan Wendell: C
Wendell's inconsistent performance against New York was a good summary of the New England offensive performance. He made some very nice combo blocks and got to the second level on occasion, but a few plays were blown up when Wendell was beat in one-on-one situations.
Dan Connolly: C
He gave up a couple of pressures and a sack by my count. However, he combined with Vollmer to open up a few holes on the right side in the running game.
Marcus Cannon: D+
Cannon saw spot-duty for the Patriots, earning 18 snaps. He was beat soundly on a couple of run plays and will need to improve if he is going to take over at right guard for Dan Connolly in the near future.
Chandler Jones: B+
Jones—when healthy—is one of the best defensive ends in the league. Jones' ability to rush from the inside has allowed the Patriots to get better athletes on the field to rush the passer.
He tallied two first-half sacks, but his impact goes beyond statistics. Much like how the San Francisco 49ers Aldon Smith owes a lot of his success to his teammate Justin Smith, Jones' play opened up opportunities for teammates Tommy Kelly and Michael Buchanan.
As long as Jones' body holds up, look for opposing defenses to have trouble dealing with the wake that he creates.
Rob Ninkovich: B+
Ninkovich has been criminally underrated—inside and outside of New England—for far too long. He had another classic "Nink" performance against the Jets.
It didn't result in a turnover, but his strip of Chris Ivory is an example of the impact plays Ninkovich makes. He didn't record a sack, but was consistently in Geno Smith's face.
Michael Buchanan: B-
Buchanan comes in to rush the passer when Chandler Jones slides inside and has, thus far, performed exceptionally well for a rookie. He notched his first sack against the Jets—look for him to fill the Mark Anderson pass-rush role this season and get close to 10 sacks in 2013.
Tommy Kelly: C+
Kelly had tough sledding against the Jets' improved interior line. He was able to get in on a lot of tackles in the run game, but was just as often pushed out of the hole. That said, his sack and pressure from the interior was a sight for sore eyes in New England.
Joe Vellano: C+
Vellano has come a long way from the opening days of training camp. He split time with Wilfork and Kelly and used his low center of gravity and understanding of leverage to hold up in the run game better than his much bigger Patriots teammates.
Vince Wilfork: D+
Wilfork's performance looked bad at first glance, but was even worse on closer examination. He was pushed off the ball by Jets offensive linemen Nick Mangold and Vlad Ducasse. Unable to hold the point of attack, Wilfork, uncharacteristically, ran around some blocks and lost gap integrity.
Dont'a Hightower: B-
Like Ninkovich and Jones, some of Hightower's plays just don't show up on the stat sheet. He notched six tackles, but one of his most important plays was getting a good chuck on Stephen Hill coming out of the backfield. This disruption of timing allowed Kyle Arrington to make the tackle in time to keep Hill from reaching the first-down marker.
Bill Belichick is always preaching, "Do your Job." Hightower—who only came off the field for three plays—is doing all the little things correctly. Once Hightower starts making some impact plays in the rush game, watch out.
Jerod Mayo: B-
Mayo is, perhaps, the most consistent player on the Patriots defense. He was consistently around the ball against New York, never missing a tackle.
The Jets tight ends are nothing to write home about, but Mayo looked better in coverage than normal.
Brandon Spikes: B-
Spikes was the odd man out for much of the night when the Patriots were aligned in their nickel defense. When he was on the field, Spikes was his normal run-stopping self. He got into the backfield seemingly at will and was more productive than his four tackles indicate.
Jamie Collins: I
After two weeks, Collins has only seen the field for a total of five snaps.
Aqib Talib: A-
Talib was everywhere against the Jets. Two interceptions. A forced fumble. Talib was brought on to make impact plays, and he has certainly done that.
He did give up two catches on five targets, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), although one of those he was picked by teammate Brandon Spikes.
Here is why Talib got the "A-" instead of the "A"—take a knee when you make a game-clinching interception. The last thing the Patriots need is another injury.
Devin McCourty: B+
McCourty was late closing the window on Clyde Gates—resulting in a big play for the Jets—but was, otherwise, perfect on the night. The other two passes thrown his way were both deflected, and McCourty filled in nicely in the run game.
Alfonzo Dennard: B+
Dennard got lost on a long pass to Stephen Hill, but his diving interception and tight coverage on Santonio Holmes earns him a nice grade.
Kyle Arrington: B+
I already mentioned Dont'a Hightower giving Arrington a chance to stop Stephen Hill short of a first down, but that is easier said than done. Arrington's strong tackling is a big asset to the Patriots defense.
Arrington was beat soundly by Clyde Gates early in the game, but a floating pass and a quick recovery by Arrington prevented the catch.
Steve Gregory: B
Gregory had to leave the game for a few plays due to injury, but was a solid tackler and didn't seem to miss an assignment in the passing game.
Duron Harmon: C+
Harmon played a handful of snaps while Gregory was injured and was able to deliver a big hit. It was a small sample, but Harmon not making any mistakes shows you why he was in the game over Tavon Wilson.
Stephen Gostkowski: C
Gostkowski's booming kickoffs were a huge factor in winning the field-position battle. However, going 2-of-3 on field goals isn't what special teams coach Scott O'Brien is looking for.
Gostkowski nailed a game-winner last week, so he should have plenty of slack.
Danny Aiken: A
After one sketchy snap against Buffalo, Aiken was back to perfection against New York.
Matthew Slater: B
Slater gets down the field on punts better than, perhaps, anyone else in the NFL. Even when he doesn't make the tackle, he is forcing punt returners to think twice about returning it.
Dane Fletcher: B
Fletcher didn't see any snaps on defense, but his performance on all four special teams deserves praise.
Ryan Allen: B-
Allen struggled punting against Buffalo last week, but was much better against New York. He averaged 46.7 yards per punt, but his two touchbacks are something that he will have to work on.
Like last week, Allen's holds in the kicking game were spot-on.
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