When it comes to the Patriots success, two players are generally perceived as being irreplaceable: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Over the years the team has been able to maintain its winning ways despite missing several key players due to injury, but when Brady and/or Gronkowski is out of the lineup the winning isn't quite as frequent - particularly in the playoffs.
But after that pair identifying the next most important member of the Patriots isn't quite as simple. Julian Edelman has been a productive slot receiver and punt returner over the past couple of seasons and he's been a big part of the offense during that time. Jamie Collins' athleticism gives him the versatility to perform in a variety of roles for the defense. Devin McCourty is the glue that holds the secondary together, and given the lack of experience on the back end his presence is vital. Stephen Gostkowski is arguably the best kicker in the game and has provided a security to the team countless times over the years.
When trying to come up with a Big 3, though, there can be room for just one more player. So this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Has Jamie Collins ascended to Big 3 status in New England?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
There really isn't much that Collins can't do and right now he's doing pretty much everything for the Patriots defense. He has the ability to rush the passer, operate in coverage and stop the run - and he's done all of that for New England already this season.
When Dont'a Hightower was out for the Indy game it was Collins who assumed the green dot and helped get everyone on the same page. He then went out and did his thing, working as both an extra cover man and pass rusher throughout the second half. And when a play needed to be made on special teams late, he did his Superman thing and leaped over the line to block a key extra point.
Obviously the Patriots have been able to win a lot of games with a lot of different players out of the lineup, but losing Collins would negatively impact the team more so than any other candidate.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Please don't mistake my view as being negative in any way. The reason I don't believe this is true is because the Patriots have been so good and consistent over the years that I feel they could overcome the loss of any player other than Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. To me, it's still just a Big 2.
Obviously Collins is a talented player and the defense would suffer in his absence. I thought the defense suffered in Indy without Dont'a Hightower too, but the Patriots still won because Brady and Gronkowski were out there doing their thing.
I feel the defense would not be as strong without Collins but I also feel the team's record would not change. That's because the offense is so potent, and as long as Brady and Gronkowski are out there that won't be changing anytime soon.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.