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Why the Patriots offense is struggling? A Case Study.

To say it’s been a turbulent year for the Patriots offense would really be a colossal understatement. It’s been disastrous for the vast majority of this season and a lot of Patriots fans have been hitting the panic button on this football team because the offense has just been downright bad. But why is it bad? There’s so many factors quite honestly that have led to a perfect disaster and it’s not as simple as saying “Tom Brady is washed up” or “they’re missing Antonio Brown”. So here is a Patriots fan’s overall case study from both a fans perspective and a film’s perspective on why this offense has been bad, and I’ll show some remedies that I think can honestly do wonders for this team down the stretch.

Problem #1: Chemistry

Image result for tom brady 2019 ap
Photo Source : David J. Phillip/AP

To put it bluntly, the Patriots have really lacked chemistry on offense, specifically Tom Brady and his litany of wide receivers this season. There’s a video of a breakdown by Detroit Lions legend, and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky that shows just how awful the chemistry has been.

In the video, Tom Brady signals to Phillip Dorsett to run a stop and go route which could be an absolute home run hitter because of Dorsett’s blazing speed. However, Dorsett for whatever reason gets confused and runs a comeback route thus resulting in a throw that without context makes Tom Brady look terrible because it makes him look clueless out on the football field when to be blunt that is on Dorsett to understand the signal and to run a stop and go instead of the comeback.

There’s a good amount of fans that were whining about Brady missing OTAs this off-season and quite honestly at the time I thought they were just idiot fans crying but the more I think about it. Brady not being at OTAs these past two years have led to pretty sub-par seasons for Brady. Although Brady is my favorite all time athlete, he absolutely deserves some blame and criticism for why the chemistry is bad because he hasn’t gotten the maximum time to really develop chemistry with the young guys on this team like N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers. Meyers in particular he’s especially looked out of touch with. The only target he seems to really have an insane amount of chemistry with is Julian Edelman and that’s because those two have played so much football together and have literally an unbreakable chemistry it seems.

Another problem is the difference in weapons this offense has really had to go through.

Week 1 WR core: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Demaryius Thomas

Week 14 WR core: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers

I’m not gonna completely knock Belichick for this because I think he wanted to keep around notorious talented idiot Antonio Brown but I will criticize him for letting Josh Gordon go for really no reason. I get that Josh Gordon wasn’t doing the best statistically in New England this season but that was a guy that Brady really trusted and it felt like Gordon near the end wasn’t being used correctly or was getting frozen out of the game-plan. Now I obviously have no personal sources at all especially not in the Patriots building so I can’t say what happened to cause Gordon’s release but the Gordon release still seems strange to me, especially seeing him thrive now in a sheltered role in Seattle with Russell Wilson as his QB. I don’t think it’s fair to knock Mohamed Sanu at all because it’s extremely hard for a WR to get acclimated to this scheme this quickly in-season, and he’s gotten injured which is holding him back from really developing a rapport with Brady and he’s a competitive guy that excels in both route running and doing all the dirty work that can help teams win titles. So I’m very hopeful that he can develop a good rapport with Tom Brady before the playoffs come.

As for N’Keal Harry, it’s impossible to pin any of this on him because he got hurt after the first preseason game and has been trying to get up to speed with this offense so quickly in the midst of a team competing for a top spot with a QB that’s urgent to get results quickly.

As a whole, Brady really lacks chemistry with his core of receivers. Some of it is his fault, some of it is not his fault, and some of it is quite honestly mental errors from guys that should know better. However I don’t think this is the only reason why the offense has been struggling, and I got more reasons as to why they have been struggling.

Problem #2: This Team Misses Rob Gronkowski

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Photo Source : AP Photo/Steve Luciano

Let’s make this one quick and obvious. For as painfully sad of a season it was to see Gronk last year struggle to trot himself out onto the field as a shell of himself, this team desperately misses his services as both a run blocker and the occasional pass catch. Both Tom Brady and the running backs to be particular. For Brady’s case of why he misses Gronk, it’s blatantly obvious because well Gronk is the best Tight End ever and his big play and run after the catch abilities really were a relief whenever Brady needed a big play or if they needed to draw a double coverage to get WRs/HBs singled up against mismatch coverages.

As for the HBs, I think Sony Michel REALLY misses Gronk badly as he’s down an entire yard in yards per carry going from 4.5 YPC in 2018 to 3.5 in 2019. Michel’s got more issues that I will outline later on but that entire YPC is important especially when a lot of this offense is built around the ground and pound running game. Speaking of ground and pound.

Problem #3: Injuries Plague both Run Game and Pass Game

Image result for sony michel ap
Photo Source : Charles Krupa / AP Photo

Last season the Patriots took the playoffs by storm with their ground and pound game as Sony Michel had one of the better rushing performances in recent playoff memory as in the three games he played, he rushed for 336 yards, six TDs, had 4.7 YPC, and averaged 112 yards per game. Not only Michel but Rex Burkhead as well who also was pretty good in a secondary runner role as he averaged 4.2 YPC in 23 attempts, scored three TDs, and ended up with the game winner vs Kansas City in OT of the AFC Championship.

This season however, three of the main blockers behind that ground and pound attack are not here as noted above Rob Gronkowski retired, David Andrews who is one of the better centers in the NFL, and James Develin one of the best fullbacks in the NFL unfortunately got injured before/early into the season. This has really put a dent into Sony Michel’s productivity, and Rex Burkhead’s as well.

Not only does David Andrews’ injury affect the run game but the passing game as well because to put it bluntly, Ted Karras is not even close to a starting caliber Center, (he’s injured by the way) and it’s harming Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket because Karras is struggling to maintain interior rushers from invading the backfield/pocket.

Another pivotal injury was Isaiah Wynn going down with turf toe during week two’s game at Miami. With Isaiah Wynn going down, the Patriots resorted to walking turnstile Marshall Newhouse at LT, and he quite honestly was one of the worst Patriots I have ever seen in my twelve years of fandom. Like it is a miracle that Brady didn’t break anything with that trashcan Newhouse at LT.

 

Problem #4: Josh McDaniels

Image result for josh mcdaniels 2019 ap
Photo Source : Elise Amendola / AP Photo

Josh McDaniels, where to begin with this man? Josh McDaniels to me is a faux creative offensive mind that tends to think he’s smarter than most because he can draw up a cool double pass every ten or so games so that apparently makes him not prone to criticism by some Patriots fans. I have a litany of issues with the man when it comes to his play-calling, and I will lay out all of these issues that have stemmed every single year of this man’s tenure as Offensive Coordinator of the Patriots.

Issue #1 with his play-calling: This man is more conservative than Rush Limbaugh. Every-time I see another team play soft, or predictable, I personally call it McDaniels ball. McDaniels tends to cower out a lot of drives with some horrendous play-calling. He’s always predictable with his play-calling as the Patriots ALWAYS seem to run the ball whenever they have Sony Michel on the field, and always seem to throw whenever James White is on the field. It’s embarrassingly predictable, and what’s even worse is that he always tries to stubbornly force Sony Michel to run outside zones in an I-formation, and always tries to make James White run the same routes every time despite the fact that he literally gets blanketed it seems like almost every-time it gets called.

Issue #2 with his play-calling: He is the most fake “genius” I have ever seen in my years of watching football. Josh McDaniels is creative in the same sense that Kyrie Irving has brilliant and groundbreaking philosophical views. Oh cool Josh, you can call an END AROUND. GENIUS OF THE YEAR. Oh you can call up fake creative screen plays where it takes way too long to develop into something proper. Yeah, super innovative.

Josh tries too hard to make football into a complex game when you should just make it simple. I’m not gonna pretend like I have a lot of NFL expertise and advanced play-calling abilities but for someone that’s regarded among the best of the best in the NFL at what he does, McDaniels is horribly underwhelming, and just straight up overrated. I sincerely hope someone hires this man to be their head coach this off-season because I really would despise to see him become the HC of the Patriots whenever Belichick decides to hang it up.

The remedies to these issues:

Image result for James White
Photo Source : Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

These issues can honestly all be avoided and be fixed really, and it starts with Josh McDaniels actually pulling his head out of his rear, and deciding to be a progressive minded OC. Josh, football is more simple than you make it out to be, man. Here is what Josh McDaniels should do to fix this from a fan’s perspective.

Remedy #1, USE JAMES WHITE PROPERLY: I know I said this above but James White is always used on passing downs and that’s fine. However, draw up James White into situations where he can easily win his match-ups. James White is a stud, and it’s a shame he’s not being used properly because he’s one of if not the best pure receiving backs in the league. When the Patriots were showing some sort of light at the end of Sunday’s game, it was because James White was given the ball consistently, and he was out there balling out. Please Josh PLEASE, USE JAMES WHITE PROPERLY. James White is actually good at football, scratch that James White is great at football. When he has touched the ball at least 10 or more times since 2015 including playoff games (via receptions or carries), the Patriots are 16-7 which you can probably chalk up to the Patriots being great, and this stat is kinda nit picky but the point still stands because James White when schemed open or just given the ball always seems to make the most out of every carry when he isn’t set up to fail.

Remedy #2, Simplify The Offense:  We talked about James White above but there’s still the WRs we need to address. The Patriots are the masters of finding ways to put players in the best way to succeed. Well, here’s your shot to prove it again. You don’t need to overly complicate things for two rookie WRs and a veteran mid-season acquisition WR who is new to the scheme. Most specifically I am frustrated with how they are using N’Keal Harry. Harry has shown that he can perform at a great level that he can be a pure jump-baller red zone threat that can make big time plays with his YAC ability, and the Patriots should/need to use him in ways that he can showcase those strengths while also simultaneously fixing his issues with some of his route running woes. Look at how Seattle is using DK Metcalf who is a rookie that also has a similar skill-set to N’Keal Harry. Seattle schemes Metcalf properly by using the routes he likes. If N’Keal Harry can’t run a slant route properly, then don’t force him to run those routes in a game situation like he did vs Houston that resulted in a Brady INT, and Harry getting benched. Anyway it’s all about proper scheming here with the offensive play-calling. Until these players are ready to take on larger challenges with the concepts, and schematics, it’s on the coaches to understand that these guys aren’t there yet.

Remedy #3, Shift Players Around The OL: The OL needs to step it up, and it all starts by benching Ted Karras who’s hurt anyway for James Ferentz. Ferentz who is the son of Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz, is a journeyman center who actually showed a decent amount of promise for a 30 year old. He was in for Karras when Karras went down with injury against Houston, and the offense immediately started to click. Unfortunately it was too late in the game to really win the game but they showed some light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in weeks.

Just some closing takes before I wrap up this article. While Tom Brady has declined statistically, and has looked kind of uninspiring out on the field. I really think we will see him back to “beast mode” soon. He still has his arm strength although it is slightly fading, his accuracy when he isn’t being pressured/his WRs running garbage/the wrong routes is still there, and we all know that he’s an absolute competitor so that fire won’t burn out. If the offense can follow my steps, and fix their issues I think the Patriots will be back to being the scariest team in the league by January.

Photo(s) Source : AP Photo, USA Today

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