Season 30 for the New England Patriots concluded with the team finishing at 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the third time in five seasons. This season was expected to bring new energy and a keen focus on building on last season's playoff appearance. Instead, turnovers, an inconsistent offensive line and 4th quarter collapses highlighted a year of frustration and wasted opportunities for this group.
At QB, Patrick Mahomes was brought in after the unsuccessful era with Jimmy G concluded. His strong arm combined with the budding talent at WR and TE was expected to recharge an offense looking to make a splash in the league. What was produced were 25+ turnovers by Mahomes, including INTs that clinched 4 losses. WRs accounted for 6 of the 9 lost fumbles on the year, with 2nd-yr WR Malcolm Ward leading that category with 4. The RBs took a hit in the very first week. FA signee LaTavius Murray carried the ball a grand total of six times. Why? Because in the 1st quarter of their week 1 matchup, he completely tore his LCL & MCL in his left knee and was effectively out for the season. Backup LaMarcus Riles stepped up as he has in years past to fill in at the position. This year, he pitched in with over 700 yards and 11 TDs although he only averaged 3.7 ypc. Serviceable, yes. Game-changing, hardly.
What's missing in this offense is a RB who can affect the game both as a runner and a receiver. What will take this team to another level is if they can get a back with the speed to get outside the tackles and the patience and vision to hit the holes and take the contact, this team could get back to where they feel they belong. Look for this to be addressed via Free Agency and the Draft.
On the receiving side of things, the Pats got significant growth and production from their wideouts. Brandin Cooks led the way with over 1100 yds & 8 TDs. His first season over 1k this cycle. Malcolm Ward took a big jump from a quiet rookie campaign to lead the team in receptions (63), finish 2nd in yards (857) & TDs (4) in his second season. TE Griffin McIntyre finished with 36 receptions on the year in his first season where he played more than 10 games. Three years after being selected at the end of the first round, the 6'5 TE will enter the final year of his rookie contract with much to prove. Can he stay healthy for an entire year? Will he finally show the ability that made some experts tab him as the best TE prospect in his class? A lot will need to be shown from Mr. McIntyre.
Defensively, the team impressed overall. The unit put together a stellar campaign in Season 30 finishing 5th in total defense. Their 3rd such mark in five seasons. Starting CBs Stephon Gilmore & Butler each grabbed 6 INTs on the year as they have continued to be one of the best tandems in the MBL this cycle. Butler has probably played his last game in a Patriots uniform with his cap number for Season 31 expected to be too high for the team's plans next season. Safety play was solid throughout the year as the big plays were held in check for the most part. Production from the LB corps dipped a bit this season as no LB had more than 4 sacks or 1 INT. Jamie Collins was a bust of a Free Agent pickup as he gave virtually zero production throughout the year and was benched for Curry Cornelius after the bye week. Dont'a Hightower showed his age this season and will most likely be in a new uniform next season. The pass rush will need some fresh blood as the DEs gathered 10 sacks total in Season 30. The switch to 4-3 was supposed to give Rashad Elliss and Keith Felder a fresh start given they started their careers out of position as 3-4 ends. The production didn't match and it will need to pick up with Todd Bowles implementing his aggressive fronts moving forward.
This season had its bright and low points. There was much to take away from the 8-8 campaign for the Pats, mainly, that there's still room to improve and with only 2 seasons left in the current cycle, there will need to be an injection of talent to the roster right away. Free Agency and the Draft are mere weeks away and with the expectations of a proud franchise looming large, New England needs to shape up quickly.
Until Next Time ...