It has been quite a decade for the New England Patriots.
Eight straight years, the team has battled for the AFC Championship and has made five Super Bowls over the course of ten years. During that time, several notable players have come through the program and have left an indelible mark on the franchise.
That includes several current Patriots who have continued to make history throughout the past three seasons, becoming just the second team to reach three straight Super Bowls. With so many talented players in the last ten seasons, it is difficult to distinguish who has been the best.
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Here is the team of the decade for the New England Patriots.
Quarterback: Tom Brady
It literally can’t be anyone else. Brady has won two MVP awards this decade and has cemented his legacy as not only the greatest Patriots ever but perhaps the best in NFL history. He owns just about every record among franchise quarterbacks and has had a better second decade with the team than his first 10 seasons.
Running Backs: Legarrette Blount & James White
When “Blount Force Trauma” arrived in New England for the 2013 season, he immediately showed his explosiveness by having a career-year behind a strong offensive line. He left town in 2014 only to return for the second half of that season after a dramatic release from Pittsburgh. His final year in New England was the 2016 season in which he became the first Patriot ever to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns with a franchise-record 18 scores along with 1,161 yards.
As for White, he has become a major offensive weapon who can serve a variety of different purposes for the Patriots. That included scoring a record 20 points in Super Bowl LI. He also scored 12 total touchdowns during the 2018 regular season and has never fumbled in his career.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski
Another no-brainer. Gronkowski defined the tight end position throughout his entire career and set NFL records for most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a season and for being the only tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns. He is the Patriots leader in career touchdown receptions with 79.
Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman & Danny Amendola
There haven’t been too many consistent targets for Brady to throw to, but this duo was his most reliable. Edelman has become the league’s premier slot receiver while Amendola had a penchant for clutch plays during his time with the Patriots.
Offensive Line: Matt Light, Joe Thuney, Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer
All five of these guys dominated the trenches with the Patriots.
Light was recently inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame and is one of very few players to have started in five Super Bowls.
Thuney is the only current Patriot included at this position and his one-on-one handling of Aaron Donald in last year’s Super Bowl could go down as the best performance by a Patriots lineman ever.
Connolly’s career highlight was his 71-yard kick return in 2010 against the Green Bay Packers, but he was also one of the best interior pass protectors the team has seen in a while.
Mankins made the Pro Bowl six times in his Patriots career and was an All-Pro in 2010 and made the Patriots 50th Anniversary team and All-2000’s team.
Finally, Vollmer suffered injuries late in his career but won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and showed versatility by moving between right and left tackle.
Defensive Line: Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich & Chandler Jones
Wilfork will likely be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame within the next couple of years and is a member of the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary team. He made five Pro Bowls with the team and was an All-Pro in 2012. His most memorable moments were likely his interceptions and his thunderous hit on Donald Jones in 2012.
Ninkovich did it all for New England in his career, switching between linebacker and defensive end and missing just five regular-season games with the team. He remains a fixture around the team, serving as an analyst for ESPN and for local Boston television.
As for Jones, he was a valuable player during his four seasons with the team. He recorded 36 total sacks and had a career-high 79 tackles in 2013. His tenure in New England ended abruptly though he was an impact player while with the team. The Patriots turned the draft pick they got for Jones into Thuney and receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
Linebackers: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy & Jerod Mayo
Though he has only made two Pro Bowls, Hightower is among the best linebackers in Patriots’ history. He’s enjoyed a pair of 100-tackle seasons with New England with 20 career sacks. His biggest plays were the goal-line tackle on Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX and his strip-sack of Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI.
Van Noy was acquired in a 2016 trade and has established himself as a leader of the team’s defense. He has become a proficient edge rusher and run stopper as well as an example of someone who has thrived in the Patriots system.
Mayo is currently the team’s linebacker coach and had some ridiculous seasons statistically over the past decade. That includes his 175-tackle campaign in 2010, one of only two players to accomplish such a feat in the decade (Vontaze Burfict). His 2012 season included 147 tackles and career-highs in sacks (3.0) and forced fumbles (4).
Corner Backs: Malcolm Butler & Stephon Gilmore
Butler provided what may be the most memorable moment in NFL history with his goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX. That is his lone playoff interception to date. In 2016, Butler became the team’s top corner and broke up 17 passes along with a career-best four picks.
As for Gilmore, he is in the conversation for best corner in the NFL. He wasn’t an instant sensation with the Patriots but has broken up nearly 50 passes in three seasons with the team along with 10 picks and 90 tackles.
Safeties: Devin McCourty & Patrick Chung
The position with the least changeover during the decade, the Patriots have had the same starting safeties for nearly six years. McCourty has become a franchise legend since being drafted in 2010. Starting as a corner, he has 25 interceptions in his Patriots career and recorded a career-high in 2017 with 97 tackles.
As for Chung, he has been with the Patriots since 2009 with the exception of his 2013 tenure with Philadelphia. Chung has over 700 tackles with the Patriots and 11 interceptions. He has become valuable for his run defense and his ability to cover tight ends.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski & Matthew Slater
Gostkowski is the second-longest tenured Patriots player on the roster and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
As for Slater, he has become the locker room leader, known for his “aww yeah” rallying cry after victories. He has made a career out of his special teams’ ability and is believed to be the last great gunner in NFL history.