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