Second Look: Patriots’ issues on third down this year go beyond not having Julian Edelman

Ryan Hannable
September 18, 2018 - 11:37 pm

There are plenty of things to nitpick with the Patriots offense following two games, and some of them can be pointed to not having Julian Edelman and a wide receiver Tom Brady has complete trust in.

But, most go beyond not having Edelman in the lineup and one of those is converting third downs.

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Through two games, the Patriots are 8-for-26 (31 percent), which comes following 2017 when they were eighth in the league, converting 42 percent of their third-down opportunities.

Third-and-short has been a major issue. On 3rd-and-5 or less this season, the Patriots have picked up first downs on just 4-of-11 plays. This is not a very good percentage and part of it has to do with the team not having a true short-yardage running back without Jeremy Hill, who was lost during Week 1’s win over the Texans.

But, the biggest issue is there’s been no one to count on other than Rob Gronkowski. 

When Gronkowski gets ball or is targeted on third down this year, the Patriots are 3-for-4 in picking up first downs (all vs. Houston), and when the rest of the team gets ball or are targeted, the Patriots are 5-for-22.

Other players just aren’t stepping up. Chris Hogan is 1-for-4 in getting first downs on his third-down chances, Cordarrelle Patterson is 0-for-3, and most concerning of all is James White, who is 1-for-7. White was among the best in the league last year in picking up first downs on third down, but that just hasn’t been the case so far this year.

Another factor is the team hasn’t had great success on first and second down to put the offense in favorable spots on third down. Of the 26 third-down plays this season, 16 of them have been 3rd-and-5 or more. 

Brady also hasn’t been his best, either. On third down this year, he is 8-for-16 passing for 84 yards, and his 79.2 quarterback rating is 10th in the AFC, only ahead of Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, Blaine Gabbert and Josh Allen.

All of these things need to change for the Patriots to start converting more third downs and they all serve as a reminder that it’s going to take more than just getting Edelman back in two weeks.

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