Now that we are about halfway through the regular season, it’s time to start considering which players are deserving of the Pro Bowl. For this series, we will look at the three most deserving candidates for each team. Obviously, some teams will have more or less than three players selected to the Pro Bowl, but for simplicity purposes, we will discuss the top three either way. Today, the New England Patriots are the focus.
Top Midseason New England Patriots Pro Bowl Candidates
Running back LeGarrette Blount is having the best season of his career.
In his fourth season with New England, the veteran is tied for first among all running backs with 161 carries and nine touchdowns. Blount’s 609 yards and 76 yards per game rank fifth in the NFL. On a team that usually uses several running backs per game, Blount has shouldered the load between the tackles, and he has delivered.
Blount’s success transcends statistics. His ability to pick up chunks of yards at a time draws the linebackers to the line of scrimmage, which opens up the passing lanes for Tom Brady. The former Oregon standout runs play action fakes well and has shown the ability to block in the backfield. The nine touchdowns are a product of his uncanny ability to work through contact. Frankly, he has been a truck.
Even without a top-tier offensive line, Blount has been one of the best running backs in the league this year. At the midway point, he is certainly in the Pro Bowl conversation.
Patrick Chung’s up and down career seems to be stuck on the rise in 2016.
After finishing third on the team in tackles the past two seasons, Chung leads the team with 49 combined tackles in eight games this season. He also has four passes defended to go along with one interception. Chung’s best game came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week seven, when he had ten tackles and two pass breakups.
Chung is one of the most productive safeties in the NFL. He is sixth among strong safeties in tackles, and his ability to line up at different positions allows the Patriots to change formations on a play-to-play basis. With yesterday’s departure of Jamie Collins in a trade to the Cleveland Browns, Chung is the most versatile player on the Patriots defense.
A former Oregon teammate of Blount, Chung may also be en route to his first Pro Bowl. He has played in 44 of the team’s last 45 games, including the playoffs. His sustained consistency should garner notice from voters if his production continues.
In just four games, quarterback Tom Brady leads the league in completion percentage (73.1), yards per pass (9.8), and quarterback rating (133.9). Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is second with a rating of 115.
If Brady played the first four weeks with these numbers, he would be leading in every major quarterback statistic. He is 39 years old. But, like the two players named before him, his importance goes far beyond the numbers.
The Patriots have been virtually unstoppable since Brady’s return. They have won each of his four starts by an average margin of 16.2 points. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski has 473 yards and three touchdowns since Brady’s comeback in Week five. He had only one catch in the first four weeks of the season when Brady was suspended.
All three of these players are very deserving, and have meant even more to the team than their stats indicate. Others, like cornerback Malcolm Butler, special teams captain Matt Slater, and punter Ryan Allen are also all possible candidates if they maintain their strong play. The Patriots have not had less than five players make the Pro Bowl since 2008, when Tom Brady missed the entire season. The trend is set to continue in 2016.