The Patriots use of newly acquired veterans got them to Super Bowl LII

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Ricky Jean Francois
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Ricky Jean Francois /

Bill Belichick has a knack for turning other teams discarded veterans into Patriots treasures. This season, that got New England back to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots are one win away from raising another banner in Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady get a ton of credit for the team success, and rightly so, but this season it seems like veterans from other teams are stepping up for New England. This is normal for the Patriots, but it truly stands out this season, especially as of late.

New England’s defense started the year on a very rough stretch, but they’ve transformed into one of the best as far as scoring goes. A lot of that can be contributed to the veterans that came to the Patriots at various points in the regular season. Some were here for nearly the entire 2017 campaign, but others snuck in right at the end. No matter the case, these veterans have impacted the Patriots season, helping the team get to Super Bowl LII.

Veterans Acquired in 2017

WR Phillip Dorsett

Acquired: September 2 in the trade that sent Jacoby Brissett to the Colts

Regular Season stats with Patriots: 15 games, 2 starts, 12 receptions, 194 yards

Playoff stats: 1 target, 1 reception, 31 yards

Phillip Dorsett was brought in after the injury to Julian Edelman, and fans expected him to find his way onto the field to space things out. He has blazing speed, but so does Brandin Cooks. They have such a similar skill set, so the more skilled Cooks got more playing time. Dorsett is a nice asset to have though. He must have helped in practice, giving the corners more looks at speedy wide receivers, and he’s made some plays on the game field as well. In the AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars probably didn’t prepare too much for Dorsett, and he got behind them for a perfect long reception of 31-yards to help the Patriots offense get going.

DE/LB Eric Lee

Acquired: November 21 signed off Bills practice squad

Stats with Patriots: 6 games, 5 starts, 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 safety, 1 interception

Playoff stats: 2 tackles

Eric Lee had never played in an NFL game before the Patriots signed him from the Bills practice squad. He stepped in after an injury to Dont’a Hightower and helped the New England pass rush. His play against the Dolphins and Bills helped the Patriots win two crucial AFC East games. In those two games, Lee recorded his first 2.5 sacks. His last sack came against another AFC East opponent. In week 17 he was able to pressure the Jets and add his final sack of the regular season.

Lee is a rotational player, and he doesn’t see much playing time, but the coaching staff is able to trust him when he does get on the field. His 3.5 sacks tied him for 4th on the Patriots behind Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, and Deatrich Wise.

DT Ricky Jean Francois

Acquired: November 7 signed as a free agent, December 13 signed as a free agent

Stats with Patriots: 6 games, 1 start, 6 tackles

Playoff stats: 4 tackles, 1 sack

Ricky Jean Francois was actually signed by the Patriots twice this season. As a fringe roster player, that’s normal, but his play has certainly helped New England. RJF appeared in 6 regular season games for the Patriots, and although he only recorded 6 tackles, he helped to improve the run defense.

Jean Francois’s play has actually gotten even better in the playoffs though. In just two games he has 4 tackles and a sack. He should be on the gameday roster for Super Bowl LII, and he will be a factor in slowing down Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount.

LB Marquis Flowers

Acquired: August 29 in trade that 2018 7th Round Pick to Bengals

Stats with Patriots: 16 games, 2 starts, 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Playoff stats: 4 tackles, 1 sack

Marquis Flowers was acquired just before the 2017 season began, but he caught on quickly and actually appeared in all 16 regular season games for the Patriots. He had modest stats with 23 tackles, but his ability to learn the system and step in with other injured linebackers out was huge. Like Eric Lee, Flowers was tied for 4th on the team with 3.5 sacks. He also joined the sack parade in New England’s Divisional Round win over the Tennessee Titans.

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LB James Harrison

Acquired: December 26 signed as a free agent

Stats with Patriots: 1 game, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Playoff stats: 6 tackles

Steelers fans must hate seeing James Harrison in a Patriots uniform at the Super Bowl. He was signed with less than a week left in the regular season, but he did get on the field in week 17. He had 3 tackles and 2 sacks against the Jets as he got ready for the playoffs.

Against both the Titans and the Jaguars, Harrison has been incredible setting the edge and containing dynamic running backs. That should continue on Super Bowl Sunday.

All of these players should be active for Super Bowl LII on Sunday night, and a few of them could come up with game-changing plays. Of course, James Harrison will be used to set the edge and Marquis Flowers will be used to bring some additional pressure, but Phillip Dorsett really has a chance to have an impact as well. If New England wants speed on the field, they can put Dorsett, Cooks, and Dion Lewis all out wide. The Eagles defensive backs aren’t incredibly talented, so those are matchups that Tom Brady could take advantage of.

Next: Ryan Allen could be a Super Bowl LII X-factor

Super Bowl LII will kick off at 6:30 PM EST on Sunday from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. The Patriots are looking to win their 3rd Super Bowl title in 4 seasons, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. Chowder and Champions will have your Patriots coverage for the rest of the week, as well as immediately following the game. Follow us on Twitter @CandCFansided.