Key Players- New England Patriots

1. Tom Brady– Nine. 9. N-I-N-E. That’s what number Super Bowl this will be for the legend. That’s a Super Bowl appearance every other year if you want to be technical. The man has done it all, seen it all, played in every big game imaginable yet he still finds himself trying to be great. When everyone thought he was finished after a brutal stretch in December, he just takes that negative energy all in and goes to work. This Super Bowl will be his 40th career playoff game. Unbelievable. Respect a living legend while he’s still playing.

2. Sony Michel– I was a big fan of his while he was playing for Kirby Smart at the University of Georgia. When the Patriots drafted him, I loved the pick because they really needed a running back. They have that running back to depend on and he’s been their best offensive player during this postseason. When the Patriots have that running back that can take carry after carry and get consistent yardage per attempt. He’s helped the Pats provide balance and control the clock.

3. James White– I’m a big fan of this guy and his game. The funny thing is, I don’t even refer to many of the Patriots running backs as that because they are additional receivers in the passing game, so I call them “passing backs”. He’s one of the big three that Brady will look to. The Patriots do such a good job using him in different ways. He can take handoffs out the backfield, you can get him the ball on a shovel pass, and he catches it out of the backfield which is his specialty.

4. Julian Edelman– He’s the heart and soul of this team. I said this to Levan Reid when I interviewed him in 2017 and he agreed. He misses a full season after tearing his ACL and before he comes back this year, he’s suspended the first four games after testing positive for PED’s. Jules is just as important to this team as some other pieces are. I love how he plays the game. After he makes the catch, he has the mindset of a running back in the open field. What I enjoy about him is he stays in his lane meaning he knows he’s a receiver that can’t go over the top, so he stays underneath and runs those shorter routes over the middle of the field.

5. Rob Gronkowski– He may not be the dominant factor he once was, but he’s still an imposing presence on the field, nonetheless. He’s been a key blocker in the running game. However, when you need him to make a big catch, he’ll step up and accept the challenge. Look what he did a few times last Sunday in the AFC Championship game. This will be his fourth Super Bowl appearance.

6. Trey Flowers– Whenever I think of the Patriots defenses over the years, they’ve always had a guy whose specialty was rushing the passer. I’ll even take it back and list some of the names. Richard Seymour, Chandler Jones, Chris Long, Jamie Collins to name a few. Trey is the only one that can consistently get to the quarterback on the defensive line. I love his motor along with his relentless energy. He feels he can get to the ballcarrier each time he’s on the field and most of the time, he does. He can stop the run, he collapses the pocket of the passer and he can force fumbles.

7. Dont’a Hightower– He’s the quarterback of the Patriots defense. Each unit has one. He’s the one guy that can play in every defensive package. He tackles well in space, he flushes the quarterback out the pocket, he can make tackles for a loss and he’s always finding himself in the right spot at the right time when the team needs to make a play on the defensive side of the football.

8. Devin McCourty– Number 32 is the Patriots best defensive player. He’s a former corner that made the transition to safety. It’s been a smooth change at that. He can still cover of course and pick up a receiver down the field. He can also be placed within the box to help stop the run. I believe that Devin has become one of the top safeties in the league. In pass coverage, he always has his eyes on the quarterback, then he attacks and makes a play on the football.

9. Stephon Gilmore– What a year he had in 2018. After Malcolm Butler left the team for the Tennessee Titans during the off-season, Stephon became the Patriots number one cornerback on the depth chart as he should’ve because they paid him to be just that. In his first year, I felt the Patriots weren’t using him correctly. He’s a pure man to man cover corner, his Instagram handle is “bumpnrungilmore”. I was impressed with how he played this year.

10. Patrick Chung– Every defense has the “hammer” as I like to call it. What I mean by the hammer is the guy who can lay a hit on any receiver running over the middle in their presence. That’s Patrick Chung. He covers in the back end, he can bring down a receiver and when it comes to stopping the run, he reminds me of a linebacker because of how he plays from sideline to sideline.