Welcome to the Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2015!
As always when I kick off this list, I use the 20 spot for one of the softer moments in the season. Something that, while not a major event, still has some merit and is worth recognizing here. Last year it was Jimmy Garoppolo's stellar preseason, which ultimately had no bearing on the league year as a whole. This year's Number 20 Moment definitely had a positive impact on how things played out, although it wasn't nearly as dazzling.
20. In the span of two weeks, the Patriots make two trades to acquire Keshawn Martin and Akiem Hicks.
Among the many (many, many) things the NFL is currently doing wrong, their misuse of the trade deadline is a head scratcher. In almost every other league on the planet, the trade deadline is an extremely exciting time of the year as teams all scramble to make moves, acquire talent, and build future capital. In the NFL, however, the deadline comes and goes with very little fanfare, and a year in which a small handful of trades takes place signifies a tremendous amount of action. More often than not, nothing of note takes place and most rosters simply march on unaltered as the ridiculously early deadline comes and goes.
Seriously - how much fun would a Week 13 trade deadline be? Teams looking to make a playoff push wheeling and dealing with teams who are out of contention and hoping to build stock for next season, franchises gambling the future on the present, picks and players being swapped left and right...nice move, NFL. By all means, let's keep the trade deadline where it is.
So when the Patriots made not one, but two mid-season moves to bring in some talent on both sides of the ball, folks took notice. On September 16th of last year, the Pats sent a fifth round pick over to the Houston Texans in exchange for a sixth round pick and wide receiver Keshawn Martin. Martin, who had been underachieving in Houston and drew the ire and frustration of a number of fans, was brought in to bolster an already decimated receiving corps as Brandon LaFell continued his offseason rehab and Aaron Dobson remained perennially limping around the training room. Nobody was sure exactly how much of a factor Martin was going to be, but at that early stage in the season, simply having a body who could catch passes was a huge boon.
Before Martin could even learn the playbook, the Patriots made another move. On the 30th of September, exactly two weeks later, New England was able to acquire 26-year-old defensive tackle Akiem Hicks from the New Orleans Saints. To make the move even more interesting, the trade was an extreme rarity in that Hicks represented one half of a very simple player-for-player trade; the Patriots sent tight end Michael Hoomanawanui over to New Orleans in exchange (right when I had finally figured out how to spell his last name). The Saints felt that they had an abundance of defensive linemen and needed a tight end, and the Pats felt otherwise, so both teams made a move they felt benefited their respective squads.
The NFL season was less than a month old, and there were already two new players.
In and of itself, these moves aren't that big of a deal; while it doesn't happen too often mid-season, teams do make trades, and none of the capital involved was exceptionally newsworthy. However, if you look at the return that New England got on the moves, it makes sense that the moves crack the Top 20. Martin ended up playing in nine games for the Patriots, catching 24 passes for 269 yards and 2TDs in that time. Those numbers aren't eye-popping, but he also averages over 11 yards per catch, was a strong factor as the team's WR4, pulled his weight when the offense was completely decimated by injury, and provided great value on special teams as a return man. New England was pleased enough with Martin's performance in 2015 to offer him a two year , $2.975 million extension in January of this year. Not bad for a fifth rounder.
As for Hicks, he became an important rotational piece along the front line. He logged 484 snaps, made 23 tackles, registered three sacks, and recovered a fumble for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in December of last year. Considering that Hoo-man had been a healthy scratch for some games up until that point, it was another successful move. It's also worth noting that that Hicks for Hoo-man trade represents one of those rare times where both teams benefit equally from the move; both players thrived in their new roles, which is always great to see.
Mind-blowingly exciting? No? Highlight reel material? Of course not? A massively important part of the 2015 season? Absolutely. I have no problem putting a trade like this, that helps the present and builds for the future, here at Number 20. Next up on the list, we'll find ourselves out of the front office and back on the field where the action is, but this seems like a nice way to kick things off.