Two weeks ago, the NFL announced its 2019 Pro Bowl selections and only three players from the New England Patriots were represented: linebacker Dont’a Hightower, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and special teamer Matthew Slater emerged among the winners of the glorified popularity contest known as the league’s all-star game. Of course, the NFL is not the only entity to recognize its best (or most popular) players near the end of the regular season.
One of the outlets to publish an All-Pro team every year is advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus. And as is the case with the Pro Bowl, the Patriots have three players on the list, tied for fourth-most in the league behind the New Orleans Saints (six), Baltimore Ravens (four) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (four). With that being said, let’s take a look at PFF’s Patriots picks for its all All-Pro squad this season:
CB Stephon Gilmore: First team
OG Joe Thuney: Second team
ST Matthew Slater: Second team
Stephon Gilmore making the team is no surprise, despite a disappointing outing against the Miami Dolphins last week. According to PFF’s statistics, however, the 29-year-old still allowed only 49% of the passes thrown his way during the regular season to be completed, for a passer rating of 47.4: Gilmore did surrender one touchdown and 624 receiving yards on 96 targets but also registered six interceptions as well as 13 pass breakups.
Joe Thuney, meanwhile, has also played arguably the best season of his young career. The fourth-year man, who is scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in March, has been the most consistent member of an up-and-down Patriots offensive line and as such surrendered just 16 combined quarterback disruptions per PFF: he allowed only one sack as well as four hits and 11 additional hurries. Add some strong run blocking and you get one of the NFL’s best guards this season.
Also among the best players in the league is special teams ace Matthew Slater, who continues to be a playmaker in the kicking game for the Patriots. So far this season, the team captain has registered 10 tackles and also forced one fumble, recovered another, blocked a punt and scored the first touchdown of his NFL career. In November, Slater also found himself as the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time.
Dont’a Hightower, meanwhile, did not make the cut as the first-team linebacker spots on PFF’s All-Pro Team went to the Minnesota Vikings’ Eric Kendricks and the Saints’ Demario Davis, with the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly and the Buccaneers’ Lavonte David as the backup selections.