A disappointing season came to an end this Sunday, as the Patriots were able to secure a moral victory in their 28-14 dismantling of the Jets. A 7-9 record was their worst since 2002, and drastic changes will be made to this depleted roster.
With that being said, here is our position-by-position review of the 2020 Pats.
Quarterback – Grade: F
Cam Newton’s lack of accuracy and awareness led to numerous Patriots losses this year. He simply was not even remotely close to good enough in 2020. I get it, he’s a nice guy and wears funny hats, but come on, this was a historically bad season for a passing game in a league where it has never been easier to throw the ball. An 8-10 TD-INT ratio just is not going to cut it, despite the rushing prowess Newton possesses. Despite how terrible Newton was, Jarrett Stidham’s lack of any playing time spoke volumes about how the Patriots feel about him. I’d bank on an entirely new quarterback room in 2021 for your Patriots.
Running Back – Grade: A-
Damien Harris might be the best pure runner the Pats’ have had since Corey Dillon. The only knock on Harris is that he has been fairly injury prone so far in his career. Sony Michel had a COVID-plagued year but played well when given the opportunity. Harris and Michel should make a nice 1-2 punch in 2021. James White had a down year by his standards, but much of that was due to Newton’s lack of ability to throw short passes. Burkhead had a nice year, but a major knee injury at age 30 is a tough break.
Tight End/Fullback – Grade: F
If I could make a grade worse than F for the tight end position I would. Ryan Izzo gave it his all, but he simply lacks the talent to be an NFL caliber tight end. The Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene combo were impressively bad, with a combination of five catches all year. Asiasi flashed a bit in Week 17 with his first two NFL catches, but should not be counted on for anything more than a backup in 2021. If Keene does not improve significantly, there’s a decent chance he’ll be looking for a new job in August. Jakob Johnson had a good year as a lead blocker, but his overall impact was minimal at best.
Wide Receiver – Grade: C-
The lackluster trio of Meyers, Byrd, and Harry created significant problems for both Newton and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Harry and Byrd’s lack of ability to separate from defensive backs allowed defenses to load the box and shut down the short passing and running game. Harry is clearly a bust, and one of Bill Belichick’s worst draft picks of all time. Jakobi Meyers was the lone bright spot in the group, putting up over 700 yards despite only starting 10 games. Meyers looks like a potential building block as a number 2/3 possession receiver next year if he is surrounded by more talent.
Offensive Line – Grade: A–
The strongest group on the roster in 2020, the starting five of Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, and Onwenu had a very strong year. Onwenu looks like a potential All-Pro at either the guard or tackle spot, and will certainly have a spot in next year’s lineup. Joe Thuney was arguably the team’s MVP and likely priced himself out of New England. Isaiah Wynn had a solid year when healthy but only played in 10 games. Shaq Mason and David Andrews had great bounce-back years following disappointing 2019s from the talented guard duo.
Defensive Line – Grade: D+
It was a very ugly year for the Patriots front 7 in 2020. Despite the steady prescence of Lawrence Guy, there simply was not enough talent to stop the run with consistency. Byron Cowart, Tashaun Bower and, John Simon are not starting-caliber players, yet they were given full-time roles due to the severe lack of talent. Adam Butler and Chase Winovich had very solid seasons as pass rushers, but neither was disciplined enough to play full-time roles. A combination of an overcomplicated scheme and gross lack of talent resulted in the 7th most rushing yards against in the NFL.
Linebackers – Grade F
Perhaps the weakest position on the team, the Patriots linebackers were just abysmal this season. They were so poor that it forced the Patriots to run 7 defensive back formations twice the number of snaps as any other team in the NFL combined. Ja’whaun Bentley has an opportunity to establish himself as a true full-time starting-caliber linebacker, and he fell flat on his face. Terez Hall had some nice moments, but he really isn’t anything more than a two down player at best. Adrian Phillips played much more linebacker than safety and led the Patriots in tackles. He should be poised for a lesser role in 2021.
Secondary – Grade B+
The secondary played about as well as it could without a consistent pass-rush. Stephon Gilmore had an excellent year despite missing time due to injury and COVID. JC Jackson had an up and down season, but was a turnover machine, notching 9 interceptions. Jackson’s improvement next season will be paramount with Gilmore’s likely departure. Jonathan Jones has quietly become an elite slot corner, and one of the best players on the Patriots roster. I similarly loved what I saw all year from rookie Kyle Dugger. He thrived in the Patrick Chung role as an in-the-box linebacker/safety hybrid. Devin McCourty took a bit of a step back, but his play was still well above replacement level. His brother Jason did not have a great year and may find himself off of the roster in 2021.
Special Teams – Grade A+
Jake Bailey and Nick Folk were two of the Patriots’ best and most valuable players this season. Bailey’s booming right leg earned him his first career Pro Bowl berth. Folk missed just two field goals all year and hit two game winners. Look for more of the same from the duo next season if Folk is brought back.