The New England Patriots sit at the midpoint of the 2013 season with a better won-loss record than in 2012 when they rolled to the AFC Championship Game. Last season, the Patriots rode a strong second half on offense behind wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, tight end Rob Gronkowski (tight end Aaron Hernandez was graded 50th out of 62 NFL tight ends last season–he must have had some mysterious distractions affecting his play), and the power running of running back Stevan Ridley and receiving skills of third down back Danny Woodhead.
In 2013, despite being 6-2 compared to 5-3 at this point last season, the Patriots offense has suffered mightily: Top wide receiver Danny Amendola has struggled with injuries and only played 187 snaps over eight games; a pair of rookies (Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins) and a converted college quarterback/former seventh round draft pick (Julian Edelman) have carried the load; Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been limited to eighty-six snaps so far this season; Tight end Aaron Hernandez suits up only in a prison jumpsuit; Ridley has been limited by injuries, fumbles, and curious playing-time choices by coaches while third down back Shane Vereen has only played 57 snaps due to injury.
Without these offensive weapons, the team leaned heavily on its defense and particularly their four veterans defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and cornerback Aqib Talib. Unfortunately, these four have been injured and Mayo and Wilfork lost for the season. In their place, the team has leaned on a pair of undrafted defensive tackles Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, second-year linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan to pick up the slack on defense...Click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/10/30/new-england-patriots-mid-season-checkup/