On Tuesday, the NFL announced its 2019 Pro Bowl rosters and only three members of the New England Patriots can be found on the AFC-side of things: linebacker Dont’a Hightower made the cut for the second time in his career, cornerback Stephon Gilmore for the third, and special teamer Matthew Slater for the eighth — breaking a tie with his Hall of Fame father, long-time Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater.
While all three are certainly deserving, an argument can be made that the 11-3 Patriots are still underrepresented in the Pro Bowl — especially considering that their top-ranked defense will send fewer players to the Pro Bowl than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ and Baltimore Ravens’ units that are both impressive in their own right but not on New England’s level in scoring and most statistical categories.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five members of the Patriots that certainly would have been worthy of making the league’s all-star game for their play this season.
WR Julian Edelman
Despite being one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL year-in and year-out, Julian Edelman has yet to make a Pro Bowl. This year in particular he has a very realistic case considering that he currently ranks second in the AFC in catches (92) and fourth in receiving yards (1,019) — all while also having six receiving and a passing touchdown on his résumé. Edelman, who at times has been the Patriots’ only consistent pass catcher, should have made it over someone like the Cleveland Browns’ Jarvis Landry.
OG Joe Thuney
The Patriots’ offensive line has struggled at times this season, but left guard Joe Thuney has played some very good individual football — despite having to start games alongside two different tackles and two centers. The 27-year-old, who is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason and is in line for a major payday either in New England or elsewhere, has looked very good as a run blocker and a pass protector this season. Is he therefore more deserving of Pro Bowl recognition than Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro, who surrendered more sacks (2.0) and total pressures (20) than Thuney (1.0; 16)? He certainly has a case.
LB Kyle Van Noy
New England has the best linebacker group in all of football, but only Dont’a Hightower will represent it at the Pro Bowl (unless, of course, the Patriots make the Super Bowl). Kyle Van Noy should have joined him — especially considering that Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller made the cut over him. Van Noy may have fewer sacks this season (6.5 to 7.0) but he does have three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown on his résumé and in general has been a big-play threat on the NFL’s best defense.
CB J.C. Jackson
Seeing J.C. Jackson on this list might be a bit of a surprise, but it should not be: he has played at a Pro Bowl-worthy level this season as the Patriots’ rotational number two cornerback on the other side of Stephon Gilmore, and he has been outstanding. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks have targeted the second-year man 47 times this season and he has surrendered just 22 catches for 226 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. His passer rating of 28.6 is in another world than that of the Ravens’ Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters (67.4) and Marlon Humphrey (81.1). He should have made it over both.
FS Devin McCourty
Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Baltimore’s Earl Thomas III will represent the AFC’s free safeties at the Pro Bowl, but there is a good case to be made that Devin McCourty should have been voted in over at least one of them: Thomas. While the first-year Raven has surrendered fewer catches and yards than McCourty so far this season, the Patriots’ team captain has registered five interceptions compared to Thomas’ two — all while playing an integral role within the best secondary in the NFL.