Saturday, July 13, 2024

ESPN ranks Patriots’ offensive playmakers second-to-last in NFL

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Tyquan Thornton (left), JuJu Smith-Schuster (center), and Hunter Henry celebrated after one of Henry’s touchdown receptions in the first half. DANIELLE PARHIZKARAN/GLOBE STAFF

The Patriots tied with Carolina for the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL last season, so there should be little surprise that they did not fare well in ESPN’s latest rankings of NFL teams’ offensive playmakers.

The list, which ranks teams based on the talent with which they surround their quarterbacks, is focused on evaluating running backs, receivers, and tight ends. It mainly deals with the top-five players at those positions on a given roster.

ESPN ranked the Patriots 31st out of 32 teams on the list. The only team to fare worse than the Patriots was the Chargers.

“It’s no secret that the Patriots lack playmakers,” ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote. “Their failure to land difference-makers on offense likely stunted Mac Jones’ development and cost Bill Belichick his job.”

“This might be a different franchise if Belichick had drafted Nick Chubb ahead of Sony Michel in 2018, Deebo Samuel instead of N’Keal Harry in 2019, or George Pickens instead of Tyquan Thornton in 2022. In each case, the star was the next player taken at each respective position after New England made its choice.”

While the Patriots haven’t had much success at acquiring playmakers recently, injuries plays a factor in the lack of production last year, Barnwell said.

“Pleasant surprises such as DeMario Douglas and Kendrick Bourne have been in and out of the lineup,” Barnwell wrote. “The latter making his way out of Belichick’s doghouse in 2023 before tearing his right ACL. JuJu Smith-Schuster had his snaps limited by injuries and racked up just 260 yards last season.”

“Rhamondre Stevenson and Hunter Henry, the two most productive veterans in the dying days of the Belichick era, were both out for stretches in 2023 and saw their production fall off as a result.”

The Patriots drafted a pair of receivers while adding Antonio Gibson and K.J. Osborn, whom Barnwell called supplemental players.

But the Patriots still lack the sort of offensive weapon to make defensive coordinators stay up at night, Barnwell said.

 “Until someone emerges for the Patriots, those coaches might as well replace Dak Prescott in mattress ads,” wrote Barnwell.

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