On Tuesday, December 17th, the NFL's annual Pro Bowl rosters were announced. Stephon Gilmore will be returning, but not with Brady this time. Instead, Dont'a Hightower and Matthew Slater accompany Gilmore to this year's event. But, like every year, there was a handful of Patriots that got left out of the roster. After careful consideration, here are four that should definitely have been chosen for the Pro Bowl.
The sole offensive member that had a clear claim to a spot, Julian was on the verge of the first selection of his 10-year career. He has easily been the biggest piece to this team, fighting through injury after injury while remaining Brady's only trusted target. Despite those previously mentioned injuries, and being virtually the sole focus of opposing teams secondaries, he has managed quite an impressive season.
Edelman is on pace for career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns, despite a slightly lower than average catch rate. But that is due in part to Brady forcing him the ball in the hopes that Jules will make something out of nothing. And even then, Edelman can sometimes manage to do just that. He also happens to be above average in yards per reception and yards per game as he carries the full load of the passing offense. Of course, you also can't forget his one passing touchdown and 158 passer rating.
I know it may sound crazy, but Edelman on paper appears to be better than two out of the three receivers chosen. He does not beat out Hopkins, who is having another one of his absurdly good years. But Edelman does have the edge on the likes of Landry and Hill. In Landry's case, it probably isn't his fault due to how bad his quarterback is playing this year. But Edelman still has more receiving yards, touchdowns, yards per game, and catch percentage, which quite easily shows how he is better. He even did it in two fewer starts.
For Hill's case, Edelman has better yards per game and catch percentage, which are the only real things you can count due to Hill being out with suspension for four games. While the case between Hill and Edelman is very close, Edelman clearly is better than Landry, which is all he needs to deserve a spot at the Pro Bowl.
I know, a very strange name to see when arguing for a Pro Bowl spot. But Butler has truly broken out this year, enough to earn him a spot in the competition. While not starting much, due to Belichick's strategy of constantly changing the defense's appearance, he has made quite an impact when in the game.
Adam has a career high in sacks, tackles, QB hits, and passes defensed, thanks to a slight increase in snaps. 5 1/2 sacks may not look significant, but for a defensive tackle it is top five in the AFC. But his value is difficult to see, as he truly dominates through his presence. He clogs up running lanes and bats down passes thrown too low. Butler has, on multiple occasions this year, taken on a double team to allow a teammate to get a sack. He is a true team player, who knows his job and performs it brilliantly.
Butler falls behind Cameron Heyward and Chris Jones, but you can easily make a case for him deserving a spot over Atkins. Despite Atkins having 703 snaps to Butler's 409, Butler manages to somehow have more sacks and nearly the same amount of QB hits. Atkins has the upper hand in tackles, but Butler has blocked five passes to Atkins's zero. Butler is better, being more effective despite getting far less playing time, and therefore should earn a Pro Bowl spot.
Collins may be the most obvious snub of the bunch, more than deserving of a selection. He is easily the second most valuable player on the Patriots defense, only behind potential Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Jamie's return to the Patriots brought a resurgence in his play, and he is perfect in every way a linebacker needs to be.
Need Collins to sack the quarterback? Jamie has a career-high of six sacks on the season and has a shot at setting a new career-high in QB hits. This is with Collins getting reduced blitzes in recent weeks as the Pats face tougher competition. He also reads the quarterback beautifully, and he has a career-high three interceptions and passes defended as proof. At the same time, Collins continues to display his brilliant tackling, accounting for 71 tackles and three forced fumbles. With all of those variables considered, he is better than two out of the three outside linebackers chosen.
Van Noy, like Collins, is better than Von Miller, but he is outclassed by Judon. This means that with the addition of Collins, Van Noy would just miss out. Collins has one less sack than Miller, but he outclasses him in every other category. Miller is a one-trick pony, only specializing in attacking the QB. But Collins has more tackles, passes defended, forced fumbles, and interceptions than Miller. This already secures his spot, but it is also important to bring up how Collins is also better than Judon. The argument of Collins vs. Judon is the same as Von vs. Collins. Judon has an edge on pressuring the QB, but Collins is so well rounded that he is far more valuable than both Judon and Miller.
McCourty continues to get underrated by virtually everyone, as it seems that every year he deserves at least consideration. He is the commander of the best secondary in the league. His presence allows for Gilmore and Jackson to take more risks, which usually results in interceptions. And despite his age, Devin is having a season to remember.
So far this year McCourty has five interceptions, which places third league-wide. He also has seven passes defensed, third most among the Patriots secondary. While his tackles have dropped quite a bit from last year, it can be attributed to better pieces around him. Even with the less tackles, he finds himself tying his career high in forced fumbles with two.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, fresh off a move to Pittsburg, is easily the best free safety in the AFC. But McCourty deserved that second spot instead of Earl Thomas. McCourty has more interceptions (five to two) and passes defended (seven to four). Add that to the fact McCourty also has more tackles and forced fumbles. The only thing Thomas is better at is pressuring the QB, but that is easily the least important job for a safety, and McCourty's role doesn't give him a chance to do it anyways. Devin is the centerpiece to the team's defense and, like the other players on the list, clearly deserved the selection.