Editor’s Note: Andy Gresh will be part of The Providence Journal’s Patriots coverage for the season. “Gresh’s Grades” will appear each week in print, on providencejournal.com/sports, and on 997wpro.com following a Patriots game.
On the scoreboard, it was the whipping I expected, however, the devil is in the details. Defensively, this was a superb performance from tip to tail. Offensively, there were bright spots, but some issues that left points on the field. I think the biggest takeaway is that they overcame the demons of playing in Miami and hammered a team that they should have beaten.
Tom Brady started off hot and was able to throw in rhythm. Then it felt like he was forcing the ball to Antonio Brown in the second quarter and had a bad throw on a possible touchdown. In the second half, the offense went into conservative mode and no one is better running an offense than Brady with a lead.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Tough running all day long in part because of the offensive line and protecting the lead. Sony Michel had a good grind-it-out kind of day. The fumbling, however, needs to stop. Rex Burkhead was in late and always does a solid job. James White got the screen for a garbage touchdown. That play was clearly to get it on tape so opponents have to prepare for it in the red zone. The depth at this position is top-notch.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Now that offensive pass interference can be challenged, offensive players are going to have to learn to be crafty with their hand and body positions so they can separate from defenders without being penalized. “Rub” route (when another offensive player tries to essentially set a pick like in basketball to free up an offensive receiver) penalties are going to happen, and the coaching staff can fix that. Brown looked comfortable in the offense. I just keep my fingers crossed that his teammates gravitate to his enthusiasm for football, not his overall attitude.
TIGHT ENDS: B-
Competitive in the run game. Took advantage of what opportunities came their way in the passing game. This position group will benefit most from “Rub route” coaching.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
Given who wasn’t in the lineup, I thought this group held up well. We know David Andrews is out, Marcus Cannon was out for this game and Isaiah Wynn got injured during the game. Marshall Newhouse jumped in at left tackle and got the job done. Korey Cunningham had a false start but, like Newhouse, got the job done. Kudos to the interior of the line for keeping the pocket clean for Brady the majority of the time.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
Last week I wrote about the lack of pass rush. They fixed it this week. Adam Butler was very disruptive and had a consistent rush. Danny Shelton and Michael Bennett flashed at times and were able to stay fresh because of the Patriots offensive time of possession. Throw in rushes from Chase Winovich and John Simon, it was a good day upfront.
I loved how Jamie Collins gets moved all over the chessboard. Stand up, drop in coverage, pass rush — you just don’t know what he or Dont’a Hightower will be doing snap to snap. Elandon Roberts played very well in space and in the running game. Keep an eye on Juwan Bentley. He’s coming along after last year’s injury.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A+
What a followup to last week! And yes, I’m aware the Miami Dolphins wide receivers aren’t very good, but this group shut them down. I love how J.C. Jackson plays big. The depth at safety shows up down to down. This position group is the most diverse unit on the defense. Coaches can be confident they can run any coverage they want.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
The punting game and return/coverage teams did well. Nothing alarming. But Stephen Gostkowski had a terrible day. I know on the first PAT miss, he looked at the ground as if there was an issue with the holder; the other two were just missed kicks. I’m not alarmed, but he needs a clean week next week to get back on track. If you think Gostkowski should go, you are misguided.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. The Patriots offense is about to start shredding defenses in-between the numbers. Having Edelman and Brown in the slot makes them undefendable.
2. I’m starting to worry that Isaiah Wynn is injury-plagued.
3. I’m expecting teams that have the personnel to run three wide receivers/two running backs sets to attack the Patriots defense with that personnel and test the linebackers abilities to run and play in space.