New England Patriots: 6 Underrated Players Responsible for the Patriots' Success

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IMay 27, 2011

New England Patriots: 6 Underrated Players Responsible for the Patriots' Success

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    The New England Patriots are one of the most successful NFL franchises in recent years.

    That success has been mostly attributed to quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. If the 2011 NFL season kicks off, the Patriots will be considered a front runner to win a Super Bowl.

    While this success could not be achieved without Brady and Belichick, there are several other players that do not always get the credit. Here are six underrated players responsible for the Patriots success in the past and in the future.

Jerod Mayo

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    The Patriots defense does not get as much attention as the offense, but that will change in the future. The Pats are rebuilding their defense with a youth movement and the emerging leader of that group is linebacker Jerod Mayo.

    Mayo was a tackling machine in 2010 as he led the league with an astonishing 175 tackles. Out of those 175 tackles, 114 were solo tackles, proving that he is an irreplaceable cog on an improving defense.

    Mayo is becoming a leader on the field as he is mentoring a young defense and will become a fixture on defense for many years to come.

    Mayo is just one of the many underrated players on New England’s defense.

Devin McCourty

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    In his first year in the league, cornerback Devin McCourty played like a seasoned veteran. The young rookie automatically upgraded a Patriots secondary that was in desperate need of help.

    McCourty became the shutdown corner for the Patriots and drew the toughest assignment in every game. He responded brilliantly by nabbing seven interceptions.

    The first round pick out of Rutgers did not shy away from contact. McCourty accumulated 82 tackles, forcing three fumbles and even sacking the quarterback. McCourty was underrated coming out of the draft, but is quickly becoming a cornerback that opposing quarterbacks avoid.

    McCourty is not the only rookie that was once underrated but is now turning heads.

Rob Gronkowski / Aaron Hernandez

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    Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski joined forces with rookie Aaron Hernandez to give Tom Brady two pass-receiving weapons.

    The pair combined for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in their initial campaign.

    Hernandez is basically another wide receiver, possessing a long lanky frame and unusual speed for a tight end.

    Gronkowski offers a big target for Brady to throw at and that made him a valuable asset in the end zone.

    The tandem allows the Patriots offense to be flexible with offensive sets and they should not be overlooked as run blockers. That leads us to the next underrated player on the New England Patriots.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    Let’s face it; the Patriots are a pass first team. The run may seem unimportant for the Patriot fan-base as Tom Brady is the man, but the numbers suggest something else.

    BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not only an underrated running back, but he is vital to the team. If the Patriots do not try to set up the run at all, it will allow opposing defense to focus on Brady and send blitzes from all angles.

    Green-Ellis keeps defenses honest. 

    Last year Green-Ellis rushed for over 1,000 yards and led the Patriots in touchdowns. He found pay-dirt 13 times and became the premiere rusher in the Patriots backfield. His numbers alone show just how crucial he is to the Patriots present and future.

    Sometimes statistics do not show how important a player can be and that is the case with the next player on the list.

Vince Wilfork

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    At first glance Vince Wilfork may not seem all that impressive. Last season he tallied 46 tackles and did not play in every down, but he is one of the Patriot’s most underrated players.

    Wilfork is a huge presence on the defensive line and always demands double teams. He is a lane- clogger that forces opposing runners to switch directions. His leadership on and off the field is exceptional and the Patriots coaches and ownership have taken notice.

    In fact, after signing a five-year $40 million contract, Wilfork became the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL. This speaks volumes into how important a player he is for the New England Patriots.

Role Players

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    The Patriots have built a successful franchise off a team-concept and a belief that no player is above the organization.  

    While Tom Brady is obviously the MVP of the team, future success may rely on the underrated players on the team.This combination of superstars and underrated players is what makes the Patriots a Super Bowl contender.

     James Brown is a B/R Featured Columnist, feel free to contact James at jtsneaks@gmail.com