After a crushing defeat to the Denver Broncos last Sunday, all seven of the Patriots Pro Bowlers have bowed out of the annual game in Honolulu, Hawaii. While it is a free vacation for their respective families, there is a plethora of reasons why these homegrown players have decided to pack it up for the rest of the season. Whether it is injuries, or just a final F U to the league because of Deflategate, I still find it necessary to recognize these guys for having a hell of a year.
Tom Brady, QB (64.4% 4,770 passing yards, 36TDs 7INTs 102.2 passer rating)
Obviously, it was a great year for the greatest quarterback of all time. While he ended on a sour note, don't let that fog your image of just how dominant Tom Brady was for the entire season. Even while dealing with the utter mess that is Deflategate, Brady was still able to throw for the most passing yards, most touchdowns, and tied for the league lead in least amount of interceptions among starting quarterbacks. Not a bad year for #12.
Rob Gronkowski, TE (72 catches, 1,176 yards 11TDs)
Gronk's numbers speak for themselves, but in his second go-around being relatively healthy for the duration of the season, he put up monster numbers. Gronk missed one game, but you could tell he was not 100% for a little bit after coming back from that knee injury. Hopefully, Gronk will continue to build on his already terrific career and further cement himself as the best tight end of all time.
Jamie Collins, LB (89 tackles, 5.5 sack, 1 interception)
Jamie Collins came out of nowhere and quietly became one of the best linebackers in the NFL. While he sometimes misses tackles, he is a freak athlete and can drop back into coverage with the best of them (unless he's covering Owen Daniels). Moving forward, Collins should prove to be a vital member of the Patriots defense.
Chandler Jones, DE (44 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 1 interception)
For Chandler Jones, the 2015 season was a very up-and-down year. At one point, he was the NFL leader in sacks before he had off-the-field incidents and was sidelined with injuries. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots deal with their defensive end. Will they extend him? Will they try to trade him? Or will they just let him play out his contract?
Malcolm Butler, CB (56 total tackles, 15 passes defended, 2 interceptions)
Malcolm Butler may have quietly progressed more than any other player on the Patriots roster this year. After his incredible Super Bowl interception, Butler followed it up by covering the best receiver on every team the Patriots played for 18 games. I think the Pats have found their #1 corner...
Matthew Slater, ST
Matthew Slater's numbers truly do not show just how important he is to this franchise. He really never touches the ball, but as a gunner on special teams, Slater is one of the best at what he does. I cannot think of a better leader on and off the football field than this guy.
Stephen Gostkowski, K (33FGM / 36FGA)
Similar to Tom Brady, Gostkowski's season ended on a bit of a sour note. After being one of the best kickers all season, Gostkowski missed his first PAT since 2009. Nevertheless, Gostkowski proved to be vital to the Patriots' success and should put a rough end of the season behind him.
By Pete Packowski