Patriots: Brady, Gronkowski and Collins Named Mid-Season All-Pros


The New England Patriots have gone an impressive 8-0 to start the season. They are one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, and are showing no signs of being slowed down anytime soon. They are likely the best team in the league at the mid-season point.

With the middle of the regular season here, Andy Benoit put together an NFL Mid-Season All-Pro Team for Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback. It is an interesting ready with many smart and not necessarily obvious choices, with the Patriots showing up well.

Unsurprisingly, Tom Brady was Benoit’s selection for the quarterback position. His comments on the selection:

"Has been every bit as good, if not better, than his league-leading 113 passer rating suggests."

In a similar non-surprising selection, Benoit chose Rob Gronkowski, as the first of two tight end selections, with Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen being the other. Here is what he had to say about Gronk:

"Has lined up in a multitude of spots this season, making New England’s offense the most difficult to defend in all of football."

The last member of the Patriots to land on the list probably comes as a bit of a surprise to some around the country, but the fans in New England certainly know how worthy of this selection he is. Jamie Collins was chosen as an inside linebacker selection by Benoit.

"Classified as an OLB on the Pro Bowl ballot, but that’s inaccurate; biggest contributions come as a stacked ‘backer in nickel. His range, fluidity and burst are critical to the Patriots’ sound run defense, and they continue to be an increasingly bigger part of their modest blitz and stifling coverage concepts."

If anyone other than Brady was the quarterback on this team, Benoit would lose all credibility. Sure, Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton have been great, and Aaron Rodgers is the reigning league MVP, but Brady is the obvious selection here.

He has been incredible this season, completing 68.6% of his passes for 2,709 yards (third in the NFL) and a league-leading 22 touchdowns. Brady has only thrown two interceptions, which is the fewest for any quarterback who has been on the field a majority of their teams snaps. Simply put, Brady is the league MVP right now, and his choosing as the best QB at the mid-way point was a formality.

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Gronkowski’s selection at tight end was nearly as easy as picking Brady. With an unrivaled combination of speed, size, strength and athleticism, Gronkowski is the biggest match-up nightmare in the entire NFL. He is a force to be reckoned with from anywhere on the field. Inside, outside, red zone, middle of the field, it simply does not matter.

Gronkowski is going to beat you if he wants, and he is impossible to defend with man-to-man coverage. On top of that, he is arguably the best blocking tight end in the league, excelling as both a pass protector and run blocker. The only issue with Gronkowski is his risk of injury, which is why I believe the Patriots do not use him to his full capabilities all of the time.

That said, he has the second-most receptions for tight ends this season with 44 (trailing Martellus Bennett by only one catch) and leads all tight ends with 693 receiving yards. He has also brought in seven touchdown receptions on the season, which is the second-most in the league for any position.

Collins brings a similar skill-set as Gronkowski on the defensive side of the ball. While he obviously does not have the sheer size of Gronk, Collins brings unrivaled speed, length and athleticism to the linebacker position, which allows him to dominate in all aspects of defensive play.

He is arguably the best coverage linebacker in the entire NFL. The Patriots can line Collins up on any tight end, running back or even many receivers and know that he is going to take care of them in coverage. Collins also uses his freakish skills to get to the quarterback with regularity. The Patriots are blitzing Collins this season more than before, and he is making an impact in the pass rush.

Sep 20, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) tackles Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) on the goal line during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Collins is a great new age linebacker who can handle the mis-match players in coverage and also get to the quarterback. That said, he is also a force at defending the run. Collins does a great job of play recognition, and uses his length very well when shedding blockers in the run game. Simply put, Collins is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and is a legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Brady, Gronkowski and Collins were great choices for this team, but I cannot help but think the Patriots could have been represented better. The only huge gripe I have about a Patriots’ player missing is the notable exclusion of defensive end Chandler Jones.

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Jones has come into his own this season, and leads the entire league with 9.5 sacks. I understand that sacking the quarterback is not the only part of the game at defensive end, but Jones has been great against the run as well. Teams typically run the ball right at a defense’s premier pass rusher, but opposing teams are consistently running the ball away from Jones because of his great ability to stop the run.

Muhammad Wilkerson has been great for the New York Jets, and I understand that there are only two spots available, but how does Jones not make the cut?

An argument could probably be made for Julian Edelman at wide receiver too, but I have a hard time thinking he should be in over Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins or Larry Fitzgerald. Edelman might be the next guy in, but I cannot see him displacing any of those guys.

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I would also love to see linebacker Dont’a Hightower get more consideration for this team, but that is a tough fit as well. I suppose if you make Collins an outside linebacker, Hightower could jump in as the second inside linebacker on the team, and Collins replaces Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys. I think Hightower is a better player than Lee, but Collins at outside linebacker is a bit of a stretch.

No matter how you look at it, the Patriots are a squad loaded with talent throughout the roster. They are clearly one of the best teams in the league, and their performance on the mid-season All-Pro team backs that up.