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#pounditMonday, August 3, 2020

15 best players of Super Bowl LII

Tom Brady

Super Bowl LII will see many talented players take the field from both the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots, as we know, boast a lot of talent led by one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, while the Eagles have a lot of talent themselves, including a rather fearsome defense.

Who are the best players going to be during this game? Let’s take a look at 15 of them from both teams.

1) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

He’s the best. The legend only grew in the AFC championship when Brady led New England to yet another comeback win in the playoffs with a stitched-up throwing hand. The 40-year-old threw another 32 touchdowns in 2017 to just eight interceptions, good for 4,577 yards and, quite possibly, another MVP award. That remains to be seen, but he’ll certainly prefer another Super Bowl. Whatever happens, he’ll be the best and most important player on the field when Super Bowl LII kicks off; everything the Patriots do revolves around him.

2) Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

The Patriots sound optimistic that Gronkowski will be good to go for the Super Bowl, which is great news for the Patriots. He was his usual self this season, staying healthy after a difficult 2016 and leading the team in receptions (69), yards (1,084), and touchdowns (8). He’s a matchup nightmare for opponents and probably the game’s best tight end. As long as he plays, he’ll probably play a big role in any success the Patriots have against the Philadelphia defense.

3) Fletcher Cox, DT, Eagles

The Eagles’ defensive line may be their biggest strength, and Cox is the king of that unit. The fact that he’s the primary focus of blockers and still racked up 5.5 sacks this season is a testament to how great he is. Cox’s presence is what opens things up for his fellow defensive linemen and Philadelphia’s linebacker corps. He constantly draws double-teams and can take up the attentions of two blockers at once, opening up opportunities for his teammates. He’s one of the game’s very best defensive linemen.

4) Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles

Graham has basically become a wrecking ball on the Philadelphia defensive line, leading the team with 9.5 sacks in something of a breakout season for him. He’s one of the NFC’s elite pass rushers who can win a one-on-one battle with most foes, causing chaos in a backfield. He’ll be one of Tom Brady and the New England offensive line’s chief concerns in the Super Bowl. It will be a long day for them if they can’t at least contain him.

5) Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

Ertz is the preferred target of Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz before him. One of the league’s very best tight ends, he was the Eagles’ leading receiver in terms of both catches (74) and yardage (824), to go with eight touchdown receptions. He’s one of the NFL’s rising stars. While Gronkowski will get much of the tight end publicity, Ertz will be out to prove that he’s no slouch. He’s not far behind his rival, if he even is behind him.

6) Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots

When favorite Brady target Julian Edelman went down with an ACL tear in the preseason, it was obvious that someone was going to have to step up and do some heavy lifting. Many eyes looked to Danny Amendola, but it was Cooks who seized the opportunity and became an indispensable part of the New England offense. He was second on the team with 65 catches, 1,082 yards, and seven touchdowns — just four catches, two yards, and one touchdown behind Rob Gronkowski. He has proven to be well worth the first-round pick New England gave up to bring him in.

7) Nigel Bradham, LB, Eagles

Bradham’s off-field issues have been mostly forgotten this season as he’s let his play speak for itself, and it has spoken quite loudly. His 88 tackles led the team, and he’s had to assume a bigger role in light of the injury to middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. It’s a role he has embraced as he has become one of the key men on the Philadelphia defense, assuming a leadership role, and proving a force to be reckoned with as the Eagles marched to the Super Bowl.

8) Malcolm Jenkins, S, Eagles

Jenkins is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia defense. He had an outstanding season that ended with his second Pro Bowl nod. He was third on the team in tackles and grabbed two interceptions. He also serves as a veteran leader of both the secondary and the entire defense, rightly regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL. His presence and performance will be very big when the Eagles face off against the Patriots.

9) Stephon Gilmore, CB, Patriots

Gilmore took a while to get acquainted with New England’s defensive scheme, but you could make the argument that he is now the most important player in the team’s secondary. You hardly ever heard Gilmore’s name called over the final two months of the season, and that’s because he rarely allowed opposing receivers to do anything noteworthy. Gilmore has surpassed Malcolm Butler as the Patriots No. 1 cornerback, and his diving pass breakup at the end of the AFC Championship Game is one of the reasons the Pats are back in the Super Bowl. He should see a lot of Alshon Jeffery in Minneapolis.

10) Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Eagles

Jeffrey didn’t quite have the huge statistical season he might have hoped to in his first year with the Eagles, but he was still a very effective weapon in their offense. He was third on the team in receptions and second in yardage, but his nine receiving touchdowns did lead the team. Like many of his teammates, he had a huge game in the NFC championship against the Minnesota Vikings, reeling in two touchdown catches as the Eagles romped to victory.

11) Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots

Amendola has now been with the Patriots for five seasons, and he is having his finest year yet. He has taken over the Julian Edelman role and delivered for New England with 61 catches for 659 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also returning punts for the team and has averaged around 8.5 yards per return, with a long of 40. Perhaps his biggest contribution has come this postseason. Amendola has 18 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns this postseason, including two big TDs against the Jaguars. He has become a reliable, sure-handed target for Tom Brady, repeatedly coming through in clutch situations.

12) Devin McCourty, S, Patriots

The veteran safety remains a key part of the New England defense. He racked up the tackles in 2017, leading the team with 97. He added one interception during his season as well. It was a slow start to the season for the New England secondary, but McCourty has been there and done that, and played a big role in organizing the unit and spearheading their improvement later in the season. He’s a big player for New England.

13) Lane Johnson, T, Eagles

The anchor of Philadelphia’s offensive line is Johnson, especially with veteran Jason Peters sidelined for the season. A first-time Pro Bowler, Johnson had one of the best seasons of any tackle in the NFL, protecting Carson Wentz and then Nick Foles with aplomb. His career looked like it might be in legitimate trouble a year ago as he battled the NFL over a drug suspension, but he’s back and better than he ever has been. Plus, he’s a brash leader of the Philadelphia offensive line who has started a trend in the city this playoff run.

14) Trey Flowers, DE, Patriots

The New England sack leader is a threat to opposing quarterbacks on every single play. His 6.5 sacks were a team best, and he, along with Kyle Van Noy, were constant headaches for Blake Bortles in the AFC championship, jointly leading the team with nine total tackles. Flowers didn’t get a sack, but he hit Bortles four times, showing that even when he’s not filling the stat sheet with sacks, he has a major impact on opposing offenses.

15) Malcom Brown, DT, Patriots

The third-year defensive lineman has matured into a defensive tackle to be feared, one of the anchors of the New England defensive line. He had 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but his importance goes beyond the stat sheet. He’s a big run stopper who also plays a role in collapsing the pocket, occupying blockers so guys like Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers can get home. He still has room to grow, and he looks like he’s going to be a star before too long — if he isn’t already.

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