Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New England Patriots All Career-Year Team

By John Turney
At Pro Football Journal we are trying to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will continue today with the Patriots. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Tom Brady's’s best two seasons and use both QB slots.

Here is the team, First-teams on left, Second-teams on right:
The First-team line is composed of center Jon Morris, 1966,  guards John Hannah, 1981, and Logan Mankins, 2007, with tackles Bruce Armstrong, 1988, and Leon Gray, 1978. Hannah has many great seasons where he was considered the top offensive linemen in the NFL and in 1981 he won lots of those awards, amazingly on a 2-14 team. 

The Second-team line is Dan Koppen, 2007, at center, Billy Neighbors, 1963, and Charley Long, 1962 the guards and Matt Light, 2007 and Brian Holloway, 1986 are the tackles. Neighbors and Long earned All-AFL honors and Light and Holloway were honored, too.

Honorable mention centers are Bill Lenkaitis in 1974 and Pete Brock in 1986 and Damien Woody, 2002.  Charlie Leo, 1961, Len St. Jean, 1966, and Bob Kratch, 1994, are the guards and the tackles who are honorable mentions are Shelby Jordan, 1980 and Tom Neville, 1966.

Tight end is a really strong position, it was really hard leaving Russ Francis off the teams, but he is relegated to honorable mention for his 1978 season. Marv Cook, 1991, also gets an HM. Rob Gronkowski, 2011, and Ben Coates, 1994, are the First- and Second team choices, though Gronk has had other great years, Coates, too.

The guard-in-the-backfield fullbacks are Kevin Turner, 1994, and then Sam Gash, 1995. Jim Nance, 1966 and Curtis Martin, 1995, take the running backspotsBacking them up are Corey Dillon, 2004, Craig James, 1985. The honorable mentions are a pair of 1974 starting backs Mack Herron and
Sam Cunningham, who were dynamite that season.

Randy Moss, 2007, and Wes Welker, 2011 are the First-team receivers. Welker was a slot, but he was a starter. When they went three-wide they would bring in another outside receiver. The Second-team receivers are Gino Cappelletti, 1965 and Stanley Morgan, 1979. The HMs are Jim Colclough,1962 and Terry Glenn's 1996, and Harold Jackson, 1979, and Randy Vataha for his 1975 season.

The 3rd down running back for a career would be Kevin Faulk, but this is for a single season and Danny Woodhead's year beat him out. The 3rd wide receiver was David Givens, 2003 for the First-team and Second-team is Troy Brown, 1997.

Tom Brady's top season is still 2007, but the loss in the Super Bowl does taint it slightly, but not enough to pick other years over it. Babe Parilli gets the Second-team nod for his 1964 season. Steve Grogan accounted for 30 TDs rushing and passing in 1976 and Drew Bledsoe's 1996 and Tony Eason's 1984 all get honorable mention status.

We put Richard Seymour at defensive tackle, it was his best position, even though often he was listed as a defensive end, since he played a tight 5-technique when the Patriots played the 3-4. When they were in the 4-3 he was a 3-technique or defensive tackle. In 2003 he was All-Pro had 57 tackles, 8 sacks, deflected 10 passes. His backup is Jim "Earthquake" Hunt in 1966 when he led team with 9 sacks and was an AFL All-Star and a Second-team All-AFL choice.

The other First-team tackle is Vince Wilfolk in 2012 when he was a consensus All-Pro and made 48 tackles, deflected 6 passes had 3 sacks and recovered 4 fumbles. Backing him up is Houston Antwine, 1968, when he had a career-high 7½ sacks and First-team All-AFL and AFL All-Star.

Honorable mention at nose tackle is Ray Hamilton, 1977, when he had 9-½ sacks and Hank Tomas in 1997 when he had 69 tackles and 7.0 sacks.

At end, we chose Chandler Jones , 2015 and Julius Adams, 1974. Jones was a Pro Bowler and had 44 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles. Adams, in 1974 was Pro Quarterback magazine's Defensive Linemen of the Year. he had 86 tackles 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. It narrowly edges his Pro Bowl season of 1980. 

Backing them up are Willie McGinest in 1996, (who was a Pro Bowler and had 67 tackles, 9.5 sacks and scored 2 touchdowns defensively) and Larry Eisenhauer, 1963, who was All-AFL and had at least 8 sacks (likely few more). Honorable mentions are Bob Dee (All-AFL in 1961) and Andre Carter, 2011, when he had 52 tackles and 10 sacks.

Inside backers are Steve Nelson, 1978 and Nick Buoniconti, 1964. In 1964 Buoniconti led a solid defense and had a career-high 5 interceptions and career-high 4½ sacks and 99 tackles. His 1966 season would qualify too, 132 tackles and four picks was a close second as well as his 1963 season which would have made him a possible AFL defensive MVP if the award existed. In 1978 Nelson had 115 tackles, 7 forced fumbles picked off 5 passes and recovered 4 fumbles. Nelson's 1980 season yielded him a Pro Bowl as did 1984 and 1985 but 1978 was his best season.

The backups are Tedy Bruschi, (2003-—131 tackles 3 picks, 2 went for TDs and 3 FF) and Vincent Brown, 1991 when he had 117 tackles and 3 sacks and was a Second-team All-Pro.

There are several honorable mentions for inside/middle linebacker. They are:  Jerod Mayo, 2010, Johnny Rembert, 1988, Dont'a Hightower, 2014 and Ted Johnson, 1997.

Andre Tippett, 1985 and consensus All-AFL choice Tom Addison, 1961, are the First-team outside linebacker. Tippett was the NEA Defensive Player of the Year and 16.5 sacks. The Second-team choices are Chris Slade, 1997, and Mike Vrabel, 2007.
The honorable mentions are Jamie Collins, 2015, Roman Phifer, 2001, and Willie McGinest, 1995. Collins, in 2015, had 89 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles (led NFL), 6 passes defensed, a scoop and score and picked off a pass. McGinest had 88 tackles, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles in his HM season. Phifer was a key to the Patriots linebacking corps and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2001.

Cornerback was extremely deep. So much so that Darrelle Revis, 2014, Aqib Talib, 2013and Devin McCourty, 2010 were honorable mentions.

The top two CBs are Mike Haynes, 1978 and Ty Law, 1998. Backing them up are Asante Samuel, 2007 and Raymond Clayborn, 1983. In '78 Haynes picked off six passes, had one pick six and totaled 54 tackles. Law had 70 tackles and led the NFL in picks in '98.

The strong safeties are in order: Lawyer Milloy, 1999 (First-team), Rodney Harrison, 2003 (Second-team, Brandon Meriweather, 2009 and Roland James, 1983 (honorable mention).

Free safety goes as follows: Tim Fox, 1980 (First-team) Fred Marion, 1985 (Second-team) and Willie Clay, 1997, Prentice McCray, 1976 and Tebucky Jones, 2001 (honorable mention).

The top nickel back is Terrell Buckley, 2001  followed by Randall Gay in 2007. Tavon Wilson, 2012, Darius Butler, 2009 and Kyle Arrington, 2014.

The designated pass rusher on the First-team is Tony McGee, 1977 (12 sacks, though a couple other years would also fit) Garin Veris, 1985.  Honorable mentions are Mark Anderson in 2011 and Jabaal Sheard's 2015.

The Patriots have been blessed with lots of excellent special teamers, including kickers, punters, returners and coverage men.

The kickers in order are Adam Vinatieri, 2004, Steven Gotkowski, 2008. The honorable mentions are Gino Cappelletti, 1964, John Smith, 1980, and Toni Franklin, 1986.

The First-team punter is Rich Camarillo, 1983. Second-team is Zoltan Mesko, 2011.

Punt returners are Mike Haynes, 1976 then Irving Fryar, 1985. Honorable mentions are Troy Brown, 2001, Julian Edelman, 2010, Dave Meggett, 1996, Kevin Faulk, 2002 and Mack Herron, 1974.

The kick returners are:  Raymond Clayborn, 1977, Brandon Tate,2010 then the HMs are Ellis Hobbs in 2008 and Mack Herron in 1973.

Like the Buffalo Bills the Pats have had lots of good coverage men, First-team Mosi Tatupu, 1986  and Second-team Matthew Slater, 2014 lead the pack. They are followed by honorable mentions Larry Whigham, 1996 (NFLPA Special Teams Player of the Year), Larry Izzo 2004 Marty Schottenheimer, 1970, and Bob Gladieux, 1971.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

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