The New England Patriots have found themselves in the NFL playoffs once again after locking up a number one seed in the AFC. Here is a quick look back at how the pieces that got them there performed during the 2011 NFL regular season.
Essentially just grading Tom Brady here. Brady was the team's MVP once again this year. It may be boring and predictable but there isn't much to say about last year's unanimous MVP of the whole league...
The Patriots' rushing attack focused around three players. BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the team with 667 yards and 11 touchdowns. Green-Ellis is a player that is consistently reliable on every single snap. Despite not being the most productive of players, he had a good season in his role as the team's main running back.
Green-Ellis was spelled once again by Danny Woodhead, who didn't make a great impact this year, but also as well as rookie Stevan Ridley. Ridley proved himself to be the most explosive of the Patriots' backs and managed a 5.1 average per carry. Despite his 441 yards however he only managed one touchdown on the year.
The Patriots don't rely on their running game, which is a relief for their playoff chances going forward.
Reliable if unspectacular.
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--------------- Tight Ends:
The Patriots' tight ends are arguably the staple of the team's offense right now. Rob Gronkowski established himself as the best tight end in the league with a record breaking season. When teams focused too much on Gronkowski, Hernandez took advantage on his way to over 900 yards and seven touchdowns.
Gronkowski and Hernandez were second and third respectively on the team's receiving list behind Wes Welker. They would be stars on any team in the league.
Best Tight End Pairing in the league.
The arrival of Chad Ochocinco was seen by many as the player that would put this group over the top. Realistically that was never the idea with Ochocinco. Anyone that had watched him knew he would just be a bit part player in New England.
The group still managed a respectable season but it was Hernandez and Gronkowski who led the offense after Wes Welker. Without Welker and Deion Branch the Patriots got basically no production from their third and fourth players on the depth chart.
Wes Welker's prominence on the team's statistic sheet reflects his importance to the unit. Unfortunately they rely too much on him and could eventually suffer from it in the playoffs. The lack of big plays from the outside guys was once again a problem this year.
Competent but one man doesn't make a receiving corp.
Starting off the season, the Patriots had easily the best performing offensive line in the league. Brian Waters and rookie Nate Solder proved themselves to be outstanding additions to the team. The injury to Dan Koppen set the group back but Dan Connolly proved to be a capable solidifying source.
Connolly then went out and things started to go awry around the center position. Waters' performances appeared to fall off as the season went on and Logan Mankins never reached the heights of last season. Sebastien Vollmer struggled with injuries and didn't look like a professional on the field.
Luckily for the Patriots they had quality depth and competition across the offensive line that allowed the offense to function throughout the year.
Early season stars getting their edge back for the playoffs.