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Curran: Top 50 Patriots Under Belichick, 31-40

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Want to talk about overlooked, underrated, never-in-the-limelight positions that matter a lot?

No?

We’re going to do it anyway because we are into a string of players on the Top 50 Players of the Bill Belichick Era that are lunchpail, Regular Joes who will just punch the clock day after day.

31. Ty Warren

Years in NE: 8 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: 24

First up, Ty Warren. The 13th overall pick in 2003, Warren missed one game in his first five seasons. For a 3-4 defensive tackle to take that kind of pounding on a weekly basis and play at the level Warren did throughout cannot be overstated. Plenty of players got more accolades -- Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour in particular -- but Warren was nearly as vital to the success of the front-seven as those would-be Hall of Famers.

32. Joe Thuney

Years in NE: 5 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

 

We have Warren’s offensive mirror image at 32. Joe Thuney. He started every single game in his five-year career, won a pair of Super Bowls protecting Tom Brady and opening holes like a madman in 2018 (as did many others) and then chased huge free-agent riches in Kansas City. He played 5,486 snaps in his five years with the Patriots. Almost 1,100 per year. Hello.

33. Joe Andruzzi

Years in NE: 5 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 3 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: 32

The Triangle of Toughness continues with another guard, Joe Andruzzi. We related this story in 2015 the first time we did this list. Andruzzi went from being listed as “out” on a Wednesday with a leg injury that had him on crutches to “active” on Sunday and going wire-to-wire in that unforgettable 29-26 win over the Chargers in OT.

Tom E. Curran's Top 50 Patriots Under Belichick: Top 10 | 11-20 | 21-30

“After what Joe did two weeks ago, it's hard to even put him on the injury report,” Belichick said back then. “It looks like if he's walking, he's playing. He came back from a back injury [in training camp] sooner than people thought he would. He played with a back brace and looked uncomfortable doing it, but he did it.

“When you talk about leadership, you can't get any more leadership than he has shown by playing with these injuries,” Belichick added. Some guys give a team speech, but to go out there when things aren't going well for you, that shows leadership, a commitment to the team and your teammates. He's a pretty impressive guy.''

34. Stephen Neal

Years in NE: 8 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 1 | SB appearances: 2 | 2015 rank: 31

Also impressive? The guy behind Andruzzi, Steve Neal. He played on the side opposite Andruzzi and won a pair of Super Bowls. He’s this high on the list because when we talk about the players who went the furthest and are the most emblematic of what the Patriots “You Create Your Role” mantra is all about, it’s Neal. "They don't come any better than Steve Neal,” Belichick said when Neal retired in 2011. “In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport (wrestling) to being an integral part of championship teams.”

 

35. Danny Amendola

Years in NE: 5 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

Now here’s an integral part of two championship teams (shoulda been three). Danny Amendola is at No. 35. In his final four playoff games with the Patriots -- SB51 and the 2017 playoffs -- Amendola caught 34 of the 44 passes sent his way for 426 yards and three touchdowns. He made sure the Patriots got to SB51 with his late-game heroics in the AFCCG against Jacksonville and he did all he could in the Super Bowl with eight catches for 152 yards. After the win over Jacksonville, Belichick said this about Amendola: “Danny’s a tremendous competitor, made some big plays for us. I thought, as usual, he handled the punts great and he had the last punt return that really set us up for the final touchdown. Danny’s such a good football player. When you look up ‘good football player’ in the dictionary his picture is right there beside it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Fielding punts, third down, big play, red area, onside kick recovery -- whatever we need him to do. He’s just a tremendous player, very instinctive, tough, great concentration.”

36. Malcolm Butler

Years in NE: 4 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 1 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

And why is Amendola -- and a whole lot of other players from the 2010s -- one ring lighter? Probably because the guy at No. 36 was on punishment and not allowed to play defense against the Philadelphia Eagles. Malcolm Butler made the greatest play in Patriots history (edging the Snow Bowl 45-yarder) against Seattle in the Super Bowl. Then he was on the receiving end of the most mysterious and still unexplained benching in Patriots history. Between those games, Butler became a Pro Bowl-level corner.

37. Jerod Mayo

Years in NE: 8 | All-Pro: 1 | Pro Bowls: 2 | SB wins: 1 | SB appearances: 2 | 2015 rank: 26

 

Jerod Mayo was a Pro Bowl-level linebacker. He was actually an All-Pro, led the NFL In tackles in 2010 and was the near-unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.

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And when the team tottered toward dysfunction in 2009 with a slew of veterans who weren’t really feeling it with Bill Belichick, it was Mayo that Belichick heaped the leadership demands on. And he delivered.

"I would say he’s really the guy that the team probably revolves around more than any other player,” Belichick said during the 2014 training camp. “Not that there aren’t other players that are instrumental in that. But I think that he really touches pretty much everybody. Not just the defensive players, but all the guys. Not just the older guys, but the younger guys. He’s got a great work ethic, great presence on the football field, and great personality. In a very good way, professional but he also has a good rapport with all the players and coaches. As respected as any player in the locker room. One of the best overall team leaders, players, kind of our glue/chemistry guy.”

38. Nate Solder

Years in NE: 7 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 4 | 2015 rank: 36

Right behind Mayo at No. 38 is Nate Solder. The Senator Phil Perry says Solder’s too low on this list. And maybe he’s right. Solder won two rings with the team (2014 and 2016) and protected Tom Brady’s blind side from 2012 through 2017 (he played right tackle his rookie year). Steady, workmanlike, tough and about the sweetest 6-foot-8, 320-pounder you could meet, Solder actually could be a bully on the field when the occasion called for it. Very good player.

39. Kyle Van Noy

Years in NE: 4 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

40. Trey Flowers

Years in NE: 4 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

We have more meat-and-potatoes at 39 and 40 with linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers. Both were inspired pickups by Belichick -- Van Noy at the 2016 trade deadline, Flowers in fourth round in 2015 -- and both were big-game beasts in the Super Bowl wins over the Falcons and Rams. Flowers had to take the free agent money he had dangled at him in 2019 but his best move for the future would be getting back to Foxboro where he was one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league.

 

Editor's note: Tom E. Curran's Top 50 players under Bill Belichick, 2.0, will be released all this week right here on NBCSportsBoston.com.