As I write this, we potentially stand on the precipice of a new era in New England. The Las Vegas Raiders apparently want to give Tom Brady $60 million dollars over two seasons to shepherd the Raiders into their new city. That means that for the first time since 9/11, the New England Patriots might enter 2020 without Tom Brady in their plans as their starting quarterback. If that happens to play out, what should we take from the 2019 Patriots? Which performances are memorable, and which should we put aside?
What to Remember from the 2019 New England Patriots Season
- First, let’s talk about the man that might not be in town anymore starting next season. Tom Brady posted his fewest passing yards per game since 2010 last season (253.6). This isn’t the most disturbing part, that would be that he passed 600 pass attempts for the first time since 2015 to drop those dreadful passing yard numbers. Granted, the Patriots defense gave him the league’s best average starting field position (about the 33-yard line but he started just 1.4 yards closer to the end zone than Drew Brees, who averaged 270.8 passing yards per game). Brady also posted literally the worst touchdown rate of his career, and his worst QBR since we started tracking the stat. I don’t mean any of this to denigrate Tom Brady or his career, but we need to remember that Tom Brady turns 43 in August, and only Frank Gore’s successfully defeated Father Time.
- The 2019 season did not go as planned for Sony Michel. The sophomore running back apparently successfully staved off a Damien Harris rookie campaign that never got off the ground. But, that isn’t to say that Michel played well last season. By any reasonably advanced metric… he didn’t do anything great. He was top-ten in average defenders in the box, red zone touches, and overall carries. Outside of week seven, he totaled just four touchdowns. He had four games all season above 100 yards. Michel created the thirtieth-most yards per carry. Most disturbing? 12 receptions. That isn’t 12 receptions in a game, or over a span of games, mind you; that is 12 receptions all season long. Michel wasn’t good last year and plays on an offense that might take a huge step back in 2020.
- The New England Patriots couldn’t find a great #2 wide receiver behind target hog Julian Edelman. That isn’t for a lack of trying, as two of their #2 wide receivers are currently out of the NFL. Antonio Brown had a prolonged meltdown that you already know about if you’re reading this, but the Josh Gordon experiment ended rather unceremoniously in New England. It’s time to end the Josh Gordon fantasy football experiment. He ended the season averaging 38.7 yards per game, his worst so far in his career. You can’t blame that on the mid-season transition to Seattle, either. On a WR2 strapped Patriots team, Gordon averaged six targets per game for 47.8 yards per contest. The 47.8 would also be the worst of his career. The inconvenient truth is that Josh Gordon turns 29 before next season, and hasn’t been good since 2013. Just ignore him in your 2020 fantasy football drafts.
- Julian Edelman topped the Patriots receiving corps with 153 targets; no other Patriots wide receiver topped 53 last season. James White turned in 95 targets, but Edelman was the Patriots passing game in 2019. Julian Edelman also turned in one of the least efficient seasons for a player who received 150+ targets… ever. Pro-Football-Reference.com His 11.17 yards per reception ranked 79th out of 95 players to receive at least 150 targets. That’s not new for Edelman. This is the third time in his career getting at least 150 targets, and all three seasons rank in the bottom-third in yardage for players receiving at least 150 targets. If he doesn’t have Tom Brady back under center, or if they change how the offense functions, Edelman owners in 2020 could have a rude awakening.
- We spent the runup to 2020 trying to convince ourselves that someone would step into the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski role. Heck, some of us convinced themselves that Rob Gronkowski would step into that role. Here’s the simple fact of the matter: the Rob Gronkowski role existed because Rob Gronkowski was a Patriot. Bill Belichick molds his offense to his players, and the “Gronk” role no longer exists. If you want more data to back this up: in 2019, the Patriots directed fifty-three targets towards tight ends. That literally ranked last. Stop trying to chase that role in the Patriots offense, it no longer exists.
Check out the rest of the What to Remember series as it develops!
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