Quarter-mark report card: Patriots

We have reached the quarter mark of the NFL season. Therefore, this is a good time to check the progress of teams in the AFC East.

Here is our quarter-mark report card for the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots (2-2):

Offense: A-

The Patriots lead the NFL in total offense (438.2 yards) and scoring (33.5 points) per game after dropping 52 points on the Bills. The running game and passing game have showed up this season. New England’s offense also has done a good job producing without dynamic tight end Aaron Hernandez. My biggest complaint is starting quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked eight times in four games.

Defense: B-

Improvement is all I wanted to see from New England’s defense this year. It was the second-worst group in the NFL last year, and the Patriots are making strides in this area. New England is up 11 spots to No. 20. The pass rush has improved, thanks mostly to rookie defensive Chandler Jones. The secondary is still shaky at times but making more plays than last season.

Special Teams: C

I don’t know what happened to kicker Stephen Gostkowski this year. He’s kicking the ball all over the place and missed three field goals in four games. Punter Zoltan Mesko’s average is down but he already has 10 punts inside the 20, which is solid.

Overall: B

The Patriots are better than a .500 team. Two close defeats to the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals have New England sitting at 2-2. But there is no reason to panic. The Patriots, barring significant injuries, should be in contention by the end of the year.