Every season, fans of the New England Patriots come to terms with the fact that their defense is not very good. They grow tired of seeing such conservative, bland calls. That all changed this year when Darelle Revis came to town. With Revis, the Patriots were able to play man coverage and let their athletic linebackers, Don’t’a Hightower and Jamie Collins fly around and make tackles all over the field. The three awards that I will be handing out are: MVP, Breakthrough Athlete, and Most Influential. Buckle up and enjoy the ride down memory lane.
Defensive MVP: Darelle Revis
Revis earned every penny of his fat contract. He completely changed the way the Patriots played defense. He was able to lockdown opposing wide receivers and shut down one side of the field. This allowed the Patriots’ linebackers, mainly Collins and Hightower to focus on blitzing up the middle. It also allowed for guys like Kyle Arrington to play in their natural position of nickel back, instead of having to cover star wide receivers along the edges. Revis allowed Free Safety Devin McCourty to roam around and play over the top and make athletic interceptions. Revis may not have had the flashiest of numbers, but he was a point guard in the sense that he was allowing others to shine. His work ethic rubbed off on younger teammates, such as Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, which helped them make leaps in their careers. If the Patriots let Darelle Revis walk this offseason, they can kiss their Super Bowl aspirations for next year goodbye.
Breakthrough Athletes: Don’t’a Hightower and Jamie Collins
These two linebackers made the largest of leaps amongst the Patriots players this season. They were relied upon time and time again to lead this Patriot defense, and they did so admirably. Hightower filled in for injured defensive captain Jerod Mayo, calling defensive plays for the team. He finished the year with 89 total tackles and six sacks. He played through multiple injuries and gave this defense a calming presence. Jamie Collins led the Patriots with 116 total tackles. He also had two interceptions and four forced fumbles. He became notorious across the league for making freakish athletic plays. These two studs will be counted on for years to come.
Most Influential: Brandon Browner
Yes, Brandon Browner only played in twelve games. Yes, it seemed he got called for holding penalties at the worst times. But, like it or not, Brandon Browner changed the attitude of this defense. His bone-crushing hit on Keenan Allen against the Chargers changed the season. Browner is a brash and aggressive player. That swagger rubbed off on the rest of his teammates in a great way. Browner always seemed to be on the attack, something his Patriot teammates were not used to. For years, this defense would sit back in their zone and let teams run past them all game long. Browner saw this and completely changed the culture. He finished the year with twenty five tackles and an interception, along with six pass deflections. Also, without Browner’s physical play on Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl changing interception, the Patriots might still be searching for their fourth illustrious Lombardi trophy.