Today, the New England Patriots will finally enter the playoffs — a familiar feeling for most of the team’s roster. Core players such as safety Devin McCourty and tight end Rob Gronkowski, for example, have seen the Patriots reach the tournament each year since the both joined the club via the 2010 NFL draft. The same goes for linebacker Dont’a Hightower, running back James White, defensive edge Trey Flowers, and many others.
All in all, 45 of the 53 players on New England’s active roster are no strangers to the playoff experience — and the other eight will join them today:
RB Sony Michel*
OT Trent Brown
DT Danny Shelton
CB Keion Crossen*
CB Duke Dawson*
CB J.C. Jackson*
CB Jason McCourty
SS Obi Melifonwu
The Patriots currently have four rookies on their 53-man roster and they start their careers well by winning a division title in their first year with the club. They are joined by four veterans who have yet to appear in a playoff game over their careers: starting left tackle Trent Brown, defensive lineman Danny Shelton, cornerback Jason McCourty and strong safety Obi Melifonwu taste the postseason air for the first time today.
Trent Brown spent the first three years of his pro career with a San Francisco 49ers team that went 13-35 over this time span. Mid-season acquisition Obi Melifonwu entered the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in 2017. Danny Shelton won only four of a possible 48 games between 2015 and 2017, while Jason McCourty — who was with the defensive tackle on the winless 2017 Cleveland Browns — failed to reach the playoffs let alone over his first nine years in the league.
Of course, not all of the eight players are expected to be active for today’s divisional round game against the Los Angeles Chargers. While Brown, McCourty and rookies Sony Michel and J.C. Jackson are locks to appear in the game, the other four players might find themselves on the game day inactives list, especially second-round rookie Duke Dawson who is basically enjoying a redshirt season on the Patriots’ active roster.