Another season for the New England Patriots ended with a rather disappointing result. While the Patriots made the playoffs, they lost in the first round, ending their season prematurely.
The Patriots decided to start rookie quarterback Mac Jones at the beginning of the year after taking him in the first round, casting veteran quarterback Cam Newton to the curb.
The season did not start well for the Patriots, as they went just 2-4 with their offense failing to score over 30 points in any game. Jones struggled at the beginning with turnovers, at one point having thrown the same number of interceptions as touchdowns.
After losing to the Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots flipped the script on their season, thanks to Jones cutting down on interceptions. New England rattled off seven straight victories before their bye week. It should be stated that the level of competition the Patriots faced was not very difficult outside of the Tennessee Titans, who were without star running back Derrick Henry, and the Buffalo Bills.
Once the bye week ended, the tires started falling off the wagon for the Patriots, who lost three out of their last four games. Their lone victory came against the worst team in football, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Even though the regular season ended on a sour note, New England did qualify for the playoffs, but would have to face the Bills again. The Patriots struggled significantly on defense against star quarterback Josh Allen. Allen went 21-25 on passing, with 308 yards and five touchdowns, falling just shy of a perfect quarterback rating.
Jones had a very successful rookie season, and while he was not the flashiest quarterback, he managed to do his job well, which was a primary reason why New England got back into the playoffs. Jones would finish the season completing 352 passes on 521 attempts for 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Damien Harris was the clear top running back this year, carrying the ball 202 times for 925 yards and an impressive 15 touchdowns to go along with 18 catches for 132 yards. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson started in two games when Harris was injured and had a solid rookie year, with 133 carries for 606 yards and five touchdowns, along with 14 receptions and 123 yards receiving.
No Patriot receiver stood out this year with no one getting past 900 yards. Jakobi Meyers led the team in both receptions and yards with 83 catches and 866 yards for two touchdowns. Newcomer Kendrick Bourne was second with 55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns. Look for the Patriots to add someone new next offseason.
Hunter Henry had a solid first season with New England, finishing the year with 50 receptions for 603 yards and nine touchdowns. Like in his previous seasons, he sadly could not stay healthy and only played in 10 games. Fellow newcomer tight end Jonnu Smith was a big disappointment for the Patriots, catching just 28 passes for 298 yards and one touchdown.
Matthew Judon had a tremendous year defensively, sacking opposing quarterbacks 12.5 times, more than twice the amount made by any other player on the team. His impressive statistics led him to get into his third straight pro bowl. Kyle Van Noy was second on the team with five sacks in his first season back with the Patriots.
Linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley led the team in total tackles with 109, including five tackles for loss. Safety Kyle Dugger was second on the team with 92 tackles.
Cornerback J.C. Jackson led the team with eight interceptions, the second-most in the entire league, which helped get him to his first-ever pro bowl. Dugger and safety Devin McCourty were tied for second most interceptions with four each. Opposite of Jackson, the Patriots should look at adding another corner.
Kicker Nick Folk had a solid season, going 36 for 39, but he struggled with extra points, missing five on the year.
Looking ahead to this offseason, the Patriots have a lot of talented free agents this year, including Jackson, McCourty, Bentley, Folk and starting left tackle Trent Brown. With the Patriots having less than $10 million in cap space, some tough decisions might have to be made.
Next season the Patriots will look to take a step forward and try to get past the first round of the playoffs. If Jones can keep developing and the defense keeps playing at their level, the Patriots might just surprise some teams next season.