The New England Patriots have nine rookies and first-year TE Matt Lengel on the active roster, so they have all obviously reached the postseason for first time in their career. There are 35 players that were on the 2015 roster that reached the playoffs last year, and 23 players from the Super Bowl XLIX team.
Add in the additions of TE Martellus Bennett, WR Michael Floyd, and LB Kyle Van Noy who have previously played in the postseason, and that leaves just five veterans that have no playoff experience.
CB Eric Rowe, league debut: 2015 (2)
The Patriots acquired Rowe from the Philadelphia Eagles right before the season opener and he has developed into a key starter in the secondary. He has locked down the bigger receiver, allowing Malcolm Butler to cover the shiftier receivers and Logan Ryan to stay in the slot. Rowe didn’t have to wait too long for his first playoff appearance.
LB Barkevious Mingo, league debut: 2013 (4)
The Patriots acquired Mingo from the Cleveland Browns during the preseason and he has been one of the top special teamers on the roster. He hasn’t developed into a defensive star, but he’s found a way to contribute. Mingo totaled 14 career wins in three seasons with the Browns. He has been a part of 14 wins with the Patriots this year.
LB Shea McClellin, league debut: 2012 (5)
The Patriots signed McClellin as a free agent this year after the Chicago Bears failed to develop him as a defender over three coaching changes. He missed the playoffs as a rookie, despite the Bears winning 10 games, and the Bears were never close to making it again. McClellin is a key rotational linebacker for New England, with a strength at stopping the run.
WR Chris Hogan, league debut: 2012 (5)
Hogan was on the Buffalo Bills from 2012-15, so he clearly had no shot at making the postseason. Despite seeing fewer targets (58) than in his previous two seasons (59, 61), Hogan crushed his career high with 680 receiving yards and he ranked 2nd of all qualifying receivers in yards per reception (behind Washington’s DeSean Jackson).
DE Chris Long, league debut: 2008 (9)
The Patriots added Long in free agency to help replace Chandler Jones. Long had spent 8 seasons with the St. Louis Rams, where he never finished the season with a winning record. He finished third or fourth in the division in all but one of his seasons. Now he’s a key defender on the best defense in the NFL, on the best team in the NFL, with a great chance of going deep into the postseason. The Long wait is over!