There hasn’t been a representative from the New England Patriots appearing in a Pro Bowl since 2015.
Over the last three years, the Patriots’ obligations for the Super Bowl have prevented their selections from appearing in a Pro Bowl. Though the team has its sights set on a similar conflict this season, the team was rewarded with a trio of Pro Bowl selections.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and special teamer Matthew Slater were the three members of the Patriots selected to the 2020 Pro Bowl. Despite New England’s dominant defense, there was very little representation on that end. The same goes for special teams where punter Jake Bailey has won AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on two occasions.
Offensively, it’s not surprising to see the Patriots completely unrepresented given their struggles, though there were a few players that could have made a case for a nomination.
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Here’s why New England’s three Pro Bowlers earned their spot.
The frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, Gilmore is the most deserving of the three Patriots’ Pro Bowl selections. This will be his third Pro Bowl appearance and second consecutive following an All-Pro season a year ago.
This season, Gilmore has scored more touchdowns (two) than he’s allowed (none) this year and has allowed opposing quarterbacks just a 32.8 passer rating this season, second only to teammate J.C. Jackson (28.6).
Gilmore has allowed just 24 completions all season for 280 yards. In coverage, he has hauled in a team-best six interceptions while also breaking up 14 passes.
The veteran linebacker has quietly pulled off one of his best seasons with the Patriots. He has done it all as a pass rusher, run stopper, and even in coverage. Remarkably, this is just the second time Hightower has been selected to a Pro Bowl.
Hightower has just 4.0 sacks this season for the Patriots but has added 12 QB hits and 14 pressures to help disrupt opposing quarterbacks. Against the run, he has four stuffs and recovered a fumble, returning it for a touchdown in a Week 8 victory over Cleveland.
Additionally, Hightower has drawn five flags against opposing linemen this season — tied for most on the team. In coverage, Hightower has allowed 10 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown but has also recorded three pass breakups.
Easily the most unsung member of the Patriots this season, Slater is consistently the first player downfield to defend the punt return or down a punt at the goal-line. Slater has blocked one punt this season while returning another for a touchdown in Week 4 against Buffalo — his first career score.
This year marks the veteran gunner’s eighth Pro Bowl selection and first since 2017. He has made 11 special teams tackles this season, including seven individual. A former college safety and four-time AP All-Pro, Slater has defined what it means to be a great gunner, role player, and locker room leader in the modern NFL.