In early November, midway through the 2016 NFL season, the Pats Pulpit staff handed out its New England Patriots midseason awards. Three months later and coming off a Patriots Super Bowl victory, it is time to reflect once again and hand out trophies to those, who have earned them.
Today’s installment honors the team’s defensive player of the year.
Patriots Defensive Player of the Year 2016: FS Devin McCourty
Midseason winner: LB Dont’a Hightower
SlotMachinePlayer: FS Devin McCourty
Thought about going Butler here, but I've noticed QBs paying attention to where number 32 is on the field all year long, and when they don't he makes them pay.
Ryan Keiran (@Ryan_Keiran): CB Malcolm Butler
The defense as a whole was excellent this year, and many are deserving, but Butler was consistently the best player on the defense in my opinion, especially after he fully recovered from his early season ankle injury. Devin McCourty is probably my runner up, but Hightower, Flowers, and Logan Ryan deserve a lot of love here too.
Brian Phillips (@b7phillips): FS Devin McCourty
Just as solid as they come.
Rich Hill (@pp_rich_hill): FS Devin McCourty
While CB Malcolm Butler and EDGE Trey Flowers deserve consideration, McCourty took his play to another level around the bye week when the Patriots top ranked defense started looking like a top ranked defense.
MichaelMcD831993 (@MichaelMcD8393): DT Alan Branch
Immovable against the run and the most consistent defender all season.
Oliver Thomas (@OliverBThomas): CB Malcolm Butler
Availability is more important than ability. Malcolm Butler was both. The 2015 Pro Bowler started every game once again in 2016. The top corner defended 17 throws, intercepted four, and logged his first career forced fumble and sack.
Matthew Rewinski (@SomeCallMeGoose): CB Logan Ryan
I'm going to cheat on this one a little bit – Devin McCourty was easily the most consistent defender all season, and we've learned now how much his leadership helps the young guns come along. My dark horse answer, though, is Logan Ryan – Matt Patricia loved throwing Ryan on bigger receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and letting him push them around, and it's a freaking shame he's probably leaving this offseason.
DMooreNFL (@DMooreNFL): CB Malcolm Butler
While it is hard to fathom, Butler actually got even better in 2016 and established himself as a true shut-down cornerback, which is rare in the NFL. With the team shuffling between Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones and Eric Rowe at the other outside cornerback position, Butler was a rock for the Patriots.
Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39): CB Malcolm Butler
Malcolm Butler was the most consistently dominant player on the Patriots' defense in 2016. He closed out the regular season with Pro Football Focus' third highest coverage grade among cornerbacks, which he complimented with exceptional run defense. Butler's excellent regular season play largely carried over into the postseason, where he shut down every receiver that lined up against him in the Divisional Round against Houston and helped hold First-Team All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to 77 yards in the AFC Championship Game. The only real blemishes on Butler's record were two rough outings against Miami in Week 2, Pittsburgh in Week 7 and giving up two big plays to Taylor Gabriel in the Super Bowl. Otherwise, Butler solidified his place as a top-tier cornerback in the NFL and the most valuable player on the Patriots' defense.
Kirk von Kreisler (@KirkNFL): FS Devin McCourty
Plain and simple, Devin McCourty is the most important player on New England’s defense. McCourty allows the Patriots’ defensive backfield to play with versatility, from playing a simple two-high coverage to their “big nickel” personnel. McCourty played 97.8% of the team’s defensive snaps, the most on the team, and was the most consistent player on defense. Alan Branch would be a strong choice, but McCourty’s leadership and snap counts separate him.
Bernd Buchmasser (@BerndBuchmasser): FS Devin McCourty
The Patriots defense has multiple players worthy of recognition but Devin McCourty gets the nod. A team leader on and off the field, the veteran was not only the ironman of New England’s defense but also arguably its most important player. After all, he allows the defense to diversify its coverage schemes due to his range and versatility. This helped slow down two of the best aerial attacks in the game in the playoffs – and ultimately win the Super Bowl.
What do you think about Devin McCourty as the Patriots’ 2016 Defensive Player of the Year? Let us know in the comments.