Tom Brady had fantastic season at the helm for the Patriots in 2011 (Steve Balestrieri photo)

The New England Patriots (15-4) lost another heartbreaker to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5th and now have to get on with the business of the off-season.

The Patriots had a very successful season considering the holes they had in their roster due to injuries and poor play at times from the defense. We’ll take a look at the 2011 season by going through each position and identifying weak points, strong points and positions that may get addressed this off-season by Bill Belichick.

Offense:
Overall-  The Patriots offense scored 513 points good for 3rd in the NFL. The offense also racked up 6848 yards which was second in the league. The team was 2nd in terms of passing yardage and 20th in running the ball.

Quarterback-
On the Patriots roster at the end of the season was Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

Tom Brady had arguably his best season completing 401 of 611 passes, good for 65.6% with 5235 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Counting the playoffs he and Drew Brees, and Eli Manning became the first QBs to throw for more than 6000 yards in a season.

Brady started off on fire by passing for over 500 yards on opening night against Miami, including a 99 yard pass to Wes Welker. After going through a rough patch in the middle of the season where the team lost two in a row, Brady again caught fire and played very well down the stretch including a 6 TD effort against the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Forget all the negative talk at the end of the playoffs, Brady had a fantastic season. All season long, he carried this team to the AFC East Division crown, the #1 seed in the AFC and brought them to within a hair of another Super Bowl victory. Brady still has 1-2 years left playing at an elite level before age starts to creep in and begins the decline that all players face. So the Patriots are set for the foreseeable future with Brady. But after that?…

Brian Hoyer has the trust of the coaching staff and has gotten raves for his grasp of the offense but he only attempted one pass all season, at the end of the final regular season game to get Rob Gronkowski his catch to set the TE record for yardage against Buffalo. Other than that, he took a few kneel downs during the season. Hoyer is a restricted free agent this season and the one thing that may hurt his stock (trade wise) is his lack of real playing time like Matt Flynn of the Packers got.

Ryan Mallett was inactive for 18 of 19 games this season but has the tools and the cannon arm to be the leader of this offense in the future. One thing I liked about his demeanor this season was the fact that although inactive, he was on the sidelines and involved in all the conversations Brady and the coaches had during the game. He also received raves from the coaching staff about his practice habits and play.

Moving Forward-
Chances that the Patriots target a QB in the draft or in free agency are probably less than zero at this point, unless something drastic were to happen during the off-season. One thing that may happen however, is that is that the Patriots may choose to trade one of their back-up QBs for draft picks or a player. Most people tend to think that it will be Hoyer being dangled as trade bait. But you never know, they may feel they could get great value with dealing Mallett. Stranger things have happened and the one thing with Bill Belichick in New England is never say never.

But the Patriots are set at the most important position in football with a Hall of Fame QB and two very capable backups. Right now Bill Belichick has the flexibility to stand pat or trade one of his backups for valuable draft picks. I think if the market is right, they will attempt to trade Hoyer for a second or third round pick and groom Mallett as Brady’s eventual successor.  Season Grade A- I would have liked to seen the coaches get the backups some more snaps this season but Brady was outstanding

Next up we’ll look at the running backs before the WR/TEs and the offensive line. After that we will take a look at Special Teams and the defense.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com for all the news about the Patriots as they get set to go through the Free Agency period as well as the NFL Combine and the NFL Draft. I’m sure there will be plenty of mock drafts to scan over. At PatsFans don’t forget to check out Ian Logue’s excellent stat sheets that are accessed by most of the main stream media in Boston.

Also stay tuned to Patriots4thand 2, our PatsFans blog talk Radio Show as host Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, Damien Jarrett and I bring some insight into the games and off-season as the Patriots enter free agency and the draft.

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