Patriots

Patriots fans will enjoy PFF's ranking of most valuable non-QBs in playoffs

Patriots fans will enjoy PFF's ranking of most valuable non-QBs in playoffs

Quarterback is the most valuable position in the NFL, but there are plenty of other players who fill crucial roles in winning playoff games and ultimately the Super Bowl.

The New England Patriots have been the league's gold standard when it comes to winning in the 21st century. They've claimed six Super Bowl titles, nine conference championships and 17 AFC East banners. No other team is even close in any of those three categories since 2000.

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Therefore, it's not a huge surprise that in Pro Football Focus' recent ranking of the most valuable non-quarterbacks in the playoffs from 2006 to the present, a pair of Patriots players occupy the top two spots.

Here's the top four of PFF's ranking, which is based on its WAR (wins above replacement) stat.

Julian Edelman being No. 1 is no surprise at all. The Patriots wide receiver ranks second all-time in playoff receptions with 118, which is 25 more than Reggie Wayne in third place. He also is No. 2 all-time with 1,442 playoff receiving yards, and that is 127 more than Michael Irvin in third place. Furthermore, only two non-QB offensive players have won Super Bowl MVP since 2006, and Edelman is one of them. He was named Super Bowl LIII MVP when the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. Edelman tallied 10 receptions for 141 yards.

Devin McCourty's inclusion is a little surprising, but probably not to many Patriots fans. The veteran safety has consistently ranked as one of the best players at his position throughout his career. In addition to his tremendous on-field skill and accomplishments, he's also been a great leader for the team on and off the field. The Patriots have had a lot of great secondary groups over the last decade, and McCourty has been the one constant in that area since he was drafted in 2010. 

Another Patriots player who was pretty valuable come playoff time is tight end Rob Gronkowski. He missed a few of the Patriots' playoff runs due to injury, but New England wouldn't have won three Super Bowl titles from 2014 through 2018 without the future Hall of Famer.

The Patriots lost a lot of veteran leadership this offseason with players including Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Duron Harmon and others departing through free agency or via trade. Luckily for the Patriots, they have plenty of leaders remaining on their roster to guide them through the beginning of the post-Brady era, and Edelman and McCourty will play key roles in that transition.

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

Jarrett Stidham not backing down with Cam Newton around: 'I'm definitely ready'

For the better part of three months this offseason, there was no evidence to suggest that Jarrett Stidham wouldn't be The Next Guy in New England. 

The initial wave of free agency came and went. The draft came and went. Still, the 2019 fourth-round selection out of Auburn looked like the choice to replace Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hadn't brought in anyone else outside of Brian Hoyer and two undrafted rookies.

Sure, it was a lot to ask of a Day 3 draft choice who had taken zero snaps of consequence as a rookie. But it looked like the Patriots believed he could be their starter.

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Then on June 29, news broke that the Patriots signed Cam Newton. Stidham was in Texas, visiting family, when he heard.

"Tom (Brady) deciding to go to Tampa, signing Cam and everything . . . it's just kind of a wild offseason," Stidham said. "But I would say my routine hasn't changed at all. My work ethic has kind of been the same throughout everything that's going on.

"I've just really tried to focus on being a good teammate and working as hard as I possibly can to really improve this offseason. It's been a wild ride this offseason, but happy to be back in the building with everybody and kind of get rolling here."

And happy to compete, he explained. 

Even with one of the most gifted quarterbacks in modern NFL history now present in the Patriots meetings, Stidham told reporters Friday he still feels as though that job -- the one that looked like his from the end of March through the end of June -- is up for grabs.

He didn't hesitate when asked if he believed he still had a chance to be named the starter with a good performance this summer.

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"Absolutely," he said. "I think I'm definitely ready. I think I've put a lot of work in this offseason to really improve. Mentally, physically and really in a lot of different areas. But at the end of the day, I'm extremely excited to compete with Cam and Hoy as we go forward in training camp and get into the season and things like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the competition. I love competing in whatever it is so I'm really looking forward to it."

And then there was this answer, to a question about his relationship with Brady, where Stidham -- purposefully or not -- shed some light on the fact that he still likes his odds of being The Next Guy.

"I don't really look at it as replacing Tom Brady," he said. "I just want to be myself and I want to be a leader for this team and be the best teammate that I can be for this team. I don't really look at it that way."

Stidham even went so far as to say that he was "excited" when the Patriots signed Newton. Though the rest of the world saw the acquisition as an impediment to Stidham's promotion, he says he took a different approach. 

"What a great opportunity to compete with another great player," Stidham said. "To compete with Hoy and Cam. I was actually really, really excited for the opportunity ahead."

Maybe that's lip service. Maybe that's a young player trying to convince himself there's a real competition ahead. 

But at times on Friday's WebEx press conference, Stidham sounded like he believed he had a real crack to be the No. 1. Even with a superstar 6-foot-5, 245-pound former MVP who wears No. 1 now counting himself among Stidham's teammates.

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Cam Newton didn't particularly enjoy going unsigned for four months in free agency. But he seems very pleased with where he finally landed.

During his first video conference with reporters since signing with the Patriots last month, Newton shared his first impression of New England. Surprise: it was a positive one.

"I was just blown away by the overall professionalism of the Patriots organization, starting with Robert Kraft, with Coach (Bill) Belichick as well as with (offensive coordinator) Coach Josh (McDaniels)," Newton said. "I do know I was in L.A. (when the Patriots called me) and it kind of caught me by surprise. But at the same time, I enjoyed this whole process."

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Newton has massive shoes to fill after Tom Brady led New England to nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships over the last two decades. He also has a chip on his shoulder playing on a bargain contract with the Patriots after 31 other teams wrote him off this spring due to potential injury concerns.

For all of Newton's confidence in his ability to silence his critics, though, the 31-year-old still finds himself marveling at where he ended up.

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"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Newton has spent about a week at his new workplace as the Patriots continue Phase 1 of training camp at Gillette Stadium. And as he alluded to on Instagram last week, he's fired up about simply pulling into the parking lot.

"It's so surreal coming down 1 Patriot Place each and every day and seeing the whole ambience," Newton added. "Not only that, but seeing so much support around the city of Boston and Foxboro. It's just such a great environment."

Newton is a nine-year NFL veteran with three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but like his Patriots predecessor, a change in scenery appears to be giving him new life.