- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Projected starters and key players for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl:

OFFENSE

Tom Brady, QB (12), 6-4, 225, 15th season, Michigan

All-time great heading for his sixth Super Bowl, most of any starting QB in NFL history. … Holds league postseason record for wins by a QB (20), TD passes (49), yards passing (7,017), completions (646) and attempts (1,035). … Won three Super Bowls in four years but going for first championship in 10 since then. … Fierce, emotional competitor with outstanding grasp of offense. … Threw six TD passes in two playoff games this season.

LeGarrette Blount, RB (29), 6-0, 250, 5th season, Oregon

Powerful runner with surprising agility and elusiveness. … Signed after 11th game after being released by Pittsburgh, led Patriots with 281 yards rushing in five regular-season games. … Rushed for 148 yards, three TDs in 45-7 AFC title game win over Indianapolis.

Shane Vereen, RB (34), 5-10, 205, 4th season, California

Talented receiver out of backfield with 52 regular-season receptions, seven in postseason. … Rushed for just 391 yards in regular season, 8 yards in two postseason games. … Productive runner after catch.

Julian Edelman, WR (11), 5-10, 200, 6th season, Kent State

Seventh-round draft pick gradually grew into top offensive threat. … Led Patriots with 105 catches last season, 92 this season as playing time increased after WR Wes Welker signed with Denver. … Former college quarterback threw 51-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola in 35-31 divisional playoff win over Baltimore.

Brandon LaFell, WR (19), 6-3, 210, 5th season, Louisiana State

Made 74 catches, scored four TDs in first season with New England after four with Carolina. … Brings size to a position where it had been lacking for years. … Caught winning 23-yard TD pass from Brady with just over five minutes left in playoff win against Ravens. … Had career highs of 11 catches for 124 yards in 51-23 win over Chicago.

Danny Amendola, WR (80), 5-11, 195, 6th season, Texas Tech

An underachiever in the passing game after signing five-year, $31 million contract before last season. … Had 27 receptions this season after making 54 in 12 games during injury-filled 2013 season. … Caught 51-yard TD pass from Edelman in playoff win over Ravens.

Rob Gronkowski, TE (87), 6-6, 265, 5th season, Arizona

Great hands, terrific blocker, difficult to tackle. … The NFL’s best tight end had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs. … His long wingspan and catch radius make him difficult to cover. … Healthy all season after missing last three regular-season games and both playoff games in 2013 with knee injury. … Fun-loving, colorful personality known for spiking the ball after scoring.

Michael Hoomanawanui, TE (47), 6-4, 260, 5th season, Illinois

A solid blocker who caught just three passes in the regular season. … In the divisional game against Baltimore, caught 14-yard pass with Patriots in unusual offensive line alignment, setting up TD two plays later. … In third season with Patriots after two with St. Louis Rams.

Nate Solder, LT (77), 6-8, 320, 4th season, Colorado

Caught 16-yard TD pass on tackle-eligible play in AFC title game, his first catch in four NFL seasons. … Played tight end as college freshman. … Started 11 games at right tackle as a rookie then moved to left tackle following season after longtime Brady protector Matt Light retired.

Dan Connolly, LG (63), 6-4, 305, 9th season, Southeast Missouri State

In fifth year as starter after entering league as rookie free agent with Jacksonville in 2005. … Versatile, savvy player who settled in at right guard in 2012 after playing center most of 2011 season. … Started first three games at center this season then moved to left guard, a position that opened when Logan Mankins was traded to Tampa Bay before the season.

Bryan Stork, C (66), 6-4, 310, 1st season, Florida State

Rookie fourth-round draft pick who snapped ball to Jameis Winston at Florida State. … Took over as starting center in fourth game, missed sixth and seventh with concussion. … Hurt knee in divisional playoff, missed AFC championship game and is questionable for Sunday. … A quick learner who has done a solid job calling out line adjustments.

Ryan Wendell, RG (62), 6-2, 300, 6th season, Fresno State

A reliable blocker in his third season as starter with Patriots. … Filled in seamlessly at center in three games Stork missed. … Was starting center last season.

Sebastian Vollmer, RT (76), 6-8, 320, 6th season, Houston

Native of Kaarst, Germany, was drafted in second round in 2009 out of Houston. … A starter each of his five seasons, but injuries sidelined him for extended periods in 2011 and 2013.

DEFENSE

Rob Ninkovich, DE (50), 6-2, 260, 9th season, Purdue

Found a home in New England after playing just eight games with Miami and New Orleans from 2006-08. … Developed into strong pass rusher with quickness and athleticism that allows him to run down ball carriers and deflect passes. … Had eight sacks for third straight season.

Vince Wilfork, DT (75), 6-2, 325, 11th season, Miami (Fla.)

The big man clogs the middle, often occupying two blockers and clearing space for teammates to make tackles. … A pleasant, jovial personality that belies his physical presence. … A selfless team leader who takes youngsters under his wing. … Missed last 14 games, including two in playoffs, last season but has played every game this season.

Chris Jones, DT (94), 6-1, 309, 2nd season, Bowling Green

Claimed off waivers after first game last season. … Got his chance when defensive tackles Wilfork and Tommy Kelly were hurt and started 11 games last season and 12 this season. … Missed AFC title game with elbow injury. … Blocked 58-yard FG attempt by Nick Folk on final play to preserve 27-25 win over New York Jets in October.

Chandler Jones, DE (95), 6-5, 265, 3rd season, Syracuse

Patriots best pass rusher with 23 1-2 sacks in three NFL seasons. … Team’s first-round draft pick in 2012 started 13 games with six sacks as a rookie. … In 30-7 win over Minnesota in second game this season, blocked FG attempt and returned it 58 yards for TD.

Dont’a Hightower, LB (54), 6-3, 270, 3rd season, Alabama

Took over signal-calling duties when linebacker Jerod Mayo went on season-ending IR after six games with knee injury. … Second on team with 92 tackles and had six sacks. … Solid in pass coverage for his size. … Led Patriots in 2013 with 137 tackles.

Jamie Collins, LB (91), 6-3, 250, 2nd season, Southern Mississippi

Developed into dominant player this season, leading Patriots with 109 tackles. Also had four sacks and two interceptions. … Forced four fumbles and recovered two, both team highs. … A quiet presence in the locker room, preferring to let teammates discuss his accomplishments.

Jonathan Casillas, LB (52), 6-1, 227, 6th season, Wisconsin

Made immediate impact on special teams after being obtained from Tampa Bay, where he played five games this season. … Played eight games with Patriots, starting two at linebacker, plus two in the postseason.

Darrelle Revis, CB (24), 5-11, 198, 8th season, Pittsburgh

Considered by many the NFL’s top cornerback. … Made Pro Bowl after signing two-year contract as free agent. … Remained very effective in one-on-one coverage of opponent’s top receiver, allowing safeties to double team others. … Had two regular-season interceptions and one in playoff game against Colts.

Brandon Browner, CB (39), 6-4, 221, 5th season, Oregon State

The other free agent cornerback signed by Patriots brought a physical presence. … Played last season for Seattle but missed all postseason games, including Super Bowl, due to suspension for using substances banned by the NFL. … Suspension continued this season and first played in Game 7. … A big reason for team’s improved secondary.

Kyle Arrington, CB (25), 5-10, 190, 6th season, Hofstra

A solid veteran who started past two playoff games as part of five-man secondary. … Started 52 of 64 regular-season games last season but only four this season after acquisition of Revis and Browner. … Has nine career interceptions, seven in 2011.

Devin McCourty, S (32), 5-10, 195, 5th season, Rutgers

A smart, versatile team leader with firm grasp of complex defense. … Rarely gets caught out of position and very reliable when called on to double team receiver. … Made Pro Bowl as rookie in 2010. … Played cornerback first two seasons, filled in at safety following season and is a full-time safety for second straight season.

Patrick Chung, S (23), 5-11, 210, 6th season, Oregon

Enjoyed career revival with team that drafted him in second round in 2009. … Signed with Philadelphia as unrestricted free agent before 2013 season but struggled and wasn’t re-signed. … Returned to New England this season and won starting job. … Effective against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Stephen Gostkowski, PK (3), 6-1, 215, 9th season, Memphis

Led NFL in scoring for third straight year. … Drafted in fourth round in 2006 and has been outstanding successor to longtime Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri. … Missed just five FG attempts in past two seasons, going 38 for 41 in 2013 and 35 for 37 in 2014.

Ryan Allen, P (6), 6-2, 215, 2nd season, Louisiana Tech

Was 12th in NFL with 39.9-yard net average. … Beat out another left-footed punter, Zoltan Mesko, who spent three seasons with Patriots before being released before last season. … Won Ray Guy award as nation’s best college punter in 2011 and 2012.

Julian Edelman, PR (11), 5-10, 200, 6th season, Kent State

Second in NFL with 12 yards per return. … Scored on 84-yard punt return. … Fearless in catching punts with opponents bearing down. … Great cutting ability and skillful at slipping through small gaps for extra yards.

Danny Amendola, KR (80), 5-11, 195, 6th season, Texas Tech

Began returning kickoffs this season in seventh game as way for underachieving wide receiver to contribute. … Returned four kickoffs for 105 yards in that game. … Had season-high 125 yards on five returns in playoffs against Baltimore.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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