Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) celebrates an interception in the second half against the New Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots have had a pretty satisfactory start to their season, beginning 4-0 as everyone knows by now. But with the amount of injuries they have sustained, Amendola, Vereen, Wilfork, Gronkowski just to name the big ones, have caused some players to step up and become true stars on this team. So today I would like to give you my Top Five New England Patriots Most Valuable Players of this young NFL season. Lets start with the most obvious one out there…
1. Tom Brady
Who else? The Patriots team revolves around everything that Tom Brady does, and his importance has been even more evident this year with all the change that took place in the offseason. While the number don’t exactly wow you like in previous years, his ability to cope, or at the very least manage, with major change has given the Patriots offense at least a chance to succeed. Still, seven touchdowns to only two interceptions are numbers that many other NFL teams would die for, I’m looking at you Jacksonville… But of course, the real value lies int he fact that Brady has survived the early parts of this season, and has made it through the early frustrations of his rookie wide receivers. He’s managed to help guys like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins come along and become legitimate weapons, and has made Julian Edelman into the next Wes Welker with all his catches. Tom Brady’s value to the Patriots over the years cannot be calculated, but this might the year that he’s needed most, if the Patriots want to go anywhere from here as a team, and more specifically as an offense.
2. Aqib Talib
Opposing team has a superstar wide receiver? Have no fear, the second best corner in football is here to save the day! Aqib Talib has been the godsend at the cornerback position that the Patriots and their fans have been praying for, and this guy came in the form of a 4th round pick! We saw his dominance first hand against the Atlanta Falcons young superstar, Julio Jones on Sunday Night Football, with the lights on bright. Along with covering Roddy White occasionally, he held Matt Ryan to only 1-10 passing, for one yard and an interception to boot, which also happens to be his NFL leading fourth interceptions of the year. the previous week we saw him do a great job on Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets in week two, and Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills in week one. As of Sunday night, quarterbacks throwing at Talib have completed just five of 19 passes, only 81 yards, one pass interference penalty, and four interceptions. If that isn’t proof he’s become a top cornerback, then I don’t know what will. The weaknesses of recent Patriots teams, going back to the 2007 season, has been against the pass, the fact that teams could throw on the Patriots without much trouble. However now, coupled with second year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the Patriots have been able to limit what teams are able to do against them with the pass, and has made the Patriots defense all around one of the best units in the league. And a lot of this is thanks to Aqib Talib, so please, someone pay this man!
3. Julian Edelman
At the start of the season, if I had told you the Patriots had their next “Wes Welker”, how would you have responded? Danny Amendola, we all would’ve answered that way, but with his nagging groin injury, Julian Edelman has been the one who has stepped up big time, and become the New England Patriots new Wes Welker. With guys like Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Zach Sudfeld all seriously struggling to start the season, Tom Brady found his new favorite target, and security blanket in Edelman. So far this season, Edelman has caught 34 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns, and has bailed out Tom Brady and his offense more times than I can count. When the Patriots absolutely needed a scoring drive, what were Brady’s numbers, one, two, three and four options? Julian Edelman was his guy. While these catches aren’t going for big time gains downfield, the value comes in the fact that these catches have made third downs manageable for the Patriots offense. With guys like Amendola and Gronkowski coming back very soon, maybe even this week, Edelman will probably see less looks, and less work, but it cannot be forgotten how great he was versus the Bills and Jets, and the entire season so far as a whole.
4. Nate Solder
The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. What do all three of these teams have in common, other than that they are rivals of the New England Patriots? The fact that they have neglected the development of their offensive line for so many years, and now they are forced to pick up average players like Eugene Monroe, terrible players like Levi Brown, or are content to continue to let their quarterback get killed on nearly every play like Eli Manning. The Patriots made a rather bland move a few years back in the 2011 NFL Draft when they took a big left tackle from Colorado with the 19th overall pick. While many Patriots fans called for a pass rusher, or a deep threat, or a shutdown corner, the attention to their offensive line was the best thing for them to do, and has paid off in spades years later. Nate Solder has quietly become one of the best left tackles, and offensive linemen in all of football. Playing pass rushers like Mario Williams, Muhammed Wilkerson, Adrian Clayborn and Osi Umenyiora, Nate Solder has played some great football protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. So far this year Solder has only had one penalty called on him, and has not allowed a sack yet. Solder has also had recent success in the running game, when running off the left tackle, an average of 10.3 yards going off of Solder. The Patriots offensive line has had close attention paid to it for many years now, and Nate Solder has been the greatest of this pack this year so far.
5. Rob Ninkovich
The final player on this list was a bit of a tough one. I considered Kenbrell Thompkins, Chandler Jones, Logan Mankins, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard, but I chose Rob Ninkovich because of his amazing reliability, and just all around good play this year. His numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, only a half sack and a forced fumble and recovery as well, but has been valuable in rushing the passer, getting pressure and helping out against the run. His consistency is fantastic, and that’s why he was rewarded with a three-year $15 million deal. While Chandler Jones will get most of the attention as the season goes on, Rob Ninkovich will continue to put up good, not great, numbers, and will continue to bring a consistent and solid presence as the season goes forward.
So there you guys have it, my Top Five New England Patriots MVPs so far this season. the Patriots have been blessed with some great play from important players, with big names like Gronk and Amendola down for most of the year. Now with Wilfork out for the season, I would expect these defensive players in this piece to continue to step up, and guys like Joe Vellano and Tommy Kelly to produce as well. What did you guys think? Who has been the Patriots MVP this season so far? Have I overrated or underrated anyone? Let me know in the comments.
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