The Patriots’ comeback player of the year was a slam dunk. And this was close to being just as easy. On a defense that lost veteran leaders (Seymour, Bruschi, Harrison), and saw young players struggle with bouts of inconsistency (Meriweather) or injury trouble (Mayo), Wilfork was the ultimate stabilizing force. His handling of his contract situation provided an example for teammates, and on the field, he was a leader for a madeover defensive line.
He had a 43-tackles season, playing in 13 games, and it was obvious what kind of impact he had on the team when players were shuffled around in December to find the right mix to make up for his lost production. When the club had to handle mammoth tackle Jake Long, it was Wilfork moving to end to take him.
Quite simply, Wilfork was the rock on which the defense was built. And now, all the Patriots have to do is figure a way to resign him.
CB LEIGH BODDEN: Did he get beat from time to time? Sure. But he was, by far, the team’s most consistent, reliable corner, and the best guy to play that position for the Patriots since Asante Samuel’s departure.
Bodden tied for the team lead in interceptions, and pushed teams to target Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler. Plus, moreso than the young guys, he brought a solid presence to the perimeter in the running game. His contract is up too, and he’s likely to test the market after losing a good deal of money after being cut by Detroit.
S BRANDON MERIWEATHER: Meriweather still has issues mentally, blowing a couple coverages late in the year (particularly against Carolina), and taking by angles in run support (Ray Rice’s 83-yard touchdown is the prime example).
But Meriweather also start to flash the play-making ability (5 INTs) that made him a first-round pick in the first place. And he made the Pro Bowler. To take next step, Meriweather will have to learn to harness his talent and play a more disciplined game.
January 18: Comeback Player (Tom Brady)
January 19: Most Improved (Mike Wright)
January 20: Rookie of the Year (Sebastian Vollmer)
Yesterday: Special Teams Player (Kyle Arrington)
Today: Defensive Player (Vince Wilfork)
Tomorrow: Offensive Player
January 24: MVP