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A look at the key players in Super Bowl 52

By SIMMI BUTTARFebruary 1, 2018
FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2015, file photo, the New England Patriots, right, and the Philadelphia Eagle get set for the snap at the line of scrimmage during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The two teams are set to meet in Super Bowl 52 on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini via AP, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2015, file photo, the New England Patriots, right, and the Philadelphia Eagle get set for the snap at the line of scrimmage during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The two teams are set to meet in Super Bowl 52 on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini via AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Projected starters and key players for the Super Bowl at Minneapolis on Feb. 4:



Nick Foles, QB (9), 6-foot-6, 243 pounds, 6th season, Arizona

Took over for Carson Wentz after Wentz tore his ACL in December against Rams. ... Played first three seasons with Eagles before returning as free agent. ... Became first QB in franchise history to throw for at least 300 yards and at least 3 TDs in playoff game with 352 yards, 3 TDs in NFC championship game.

LeGarrette Blount, RB (29), 6-0, 250, 8th season, Oregon

Won Super Bowls with Patriots after 2014, 2016 seasons. ... Led NFL with career-high 18 rushing TDs in 2016. ... Power runner who does best work near end zone.

Jay Ajayi, RB (36), 6-0, 223, 3rd season, Boise State

Acquired from Miami at trade deadline. ... Became first player in NFL history to produce at least 400 rushing yards with two teams (465 yards, Miami, 408 yards, Philadelphia) in same season. ... Was fourth in NFL in rushing in 2016 with 1,272 yards.

Alshon Jeffery, WR (17), 6-3, 218, 6th season, South Carolina

Led Eagles with 9 TD catches in regular season despite no 100-yard games. Only two receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Devante Adams) had more. ... Spent first five seasons with Bears. ... Caught 5 passes for 85 yards and 2 TDs in NFC title game.

Nelson Agholor, WR (13), 6-0, 198, 3rd season, Southern Cal

First-round pick in 2015. ... With 62 catches, 768 yards and 8 TDs, provides excellent complement to Jeffery in breakout season.

Torrey Smith, WR (82), 6-0, 205, 7th season, Maryland

Brings playoff experience to passing game. ... Won Super Bowl 47 with Baltimore. ... A deep threat.

Zach Ertz, TE (86), 6-5, 250, 5th season, Stanford

One of league’s best tight ends. Led team with 74 receptions and added 8 TDs. Had 8 catches for 93 yards in NFC championship game.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, LT (72), 6-6, 320, 2nd season, TCU

Fifth-round pick in 2016. Can play both tackle positions. ... Replacing perennial Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters.

Stefen Wisniewski, LG (61), 6-3, 305, 7th season, Penn State

Originally second-round pick of Oakland in 2011. ... Has played left guard and center. ... His uncle, Steve, was two-time All-Pro selection at guard with L.A. Rams and Oakland Raiders.

Jason Kelce, C (62), 6-3, 295, 7th season, Cincinnati

Went from sixth-round pick in 2011 to first All-Pro selection this season. ... Dominant part of run game, can handle DTs one on one.

Brandon Brooks, RG (79), 6-5, 335, 6th season, Miami, Ohio

Spent first four seasons with Texans. ... Joined Eagles in 2016. ... Selected for first Pro Bowl in 2017.

Lane Johnson, RT (65), 6-6, 317, 5th season, Oklahoma

Second All-Pro on offensive line. ... Was No. 4 overall pick in 2013. ... Suspended 10 games in 2016 for violating NFL’s performance-enhancers policy.



Chris Long, DE (56), 6-3, 270, 10th season, Virginia

Won Super Bowl last year with Patriots. ... First season with Eagles. .... Had 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in regular season and 8 QB pressures in NFC title game. ... Similar performance could help Eagles pull upset in Super Bowl. ... Second overall pick in 2008 draft by Rams. ... Son of Hall of Fame DL Howie Long.

Fletcher Cox, DT (91), 6-4, 310, 6th season, Mississippi State

Three-time Pro Bowler. ... Powerful force who’s second among Eagles interior linemen with 34 sacks. ... Had season-high 7 tackles and sack of Falcons’ Matt Ryan in divisional playoff win against Atlanta.

Tim Jernigan, DT (93), 6-2, 295, 4th season, Florida State

Second-round pick of Ravens in 2014 was acquired in trade in April and provides depth on defensive line. ... Signed four-year extension through 2021.

Brandon Graham, DE (55), 6-2, 265, 8th season, Michigan

Led Eagles with career-high 9½ sacks. ... No. 13 pick in 2010 draft and longest-tenured member of Eagles defense. ... Sacked Tom Brady twice when Eagles beat Patriots in previous meeting in 2015.

Derek Barnett, DE (96), 6-3, 259, 1st season, Tennessee

Had 5 sacks in rookie season. .... Had strip-sack of Case Keenum to halt Vikings’ red zone drive in NFC title game. ... First-round pick last April.

Mychal Kendricks, LB (95), 6-0, 240, 6th season, Cal

Second on team with 77 tackles. ... Has thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. ... Had team-high 10 tackles in NFC title game.

Dannell Ellerbe, LB (57), 6-1, 245, 9th season, Georgia

Won Super Bowl 47 with Baltimore. ... Joined Eagles in November and became third middle linebacker after Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker sustained season-ending injuries. ... Missed NFC title game with hamstring injury.

Nigel Bradham, LB (53), 6-2, 241, 6th season, Florida State

Acquired in trade with Buffalo in 2016. ... Led all Eagles LBs with 99 tackles and had career-high 7 tackles for loss and tied for team lead with 2 forced fumbles in first season with Eagles.

Jalen Mills, CB (31), 6-0, 191, 2nd season, LSU

Seventh-round pick in 2016. Made key defensive play while guarding Julio Jones on fourth down to preserve 15-10 win over Falcons in divisional round.

Patrick Robinson, CB (21), 5-11, 191, 8th season, Florida State

First season with Eagles and led them with 4 interceptions in regular season. ... Had spectacular 50-yard pick-6 against Vikings in NFC title game.

Ronald Darby, CB (41), 5-11, 193, 3rd season, Florida State

Missed eight games because of dislocated ankle sustained in season opener. ... Will face challenge trying to cover Patriots wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola. ... Inconsistent, but when he’s on, he can handle such assignments well.

Malcolm Jenkins, S (27), 6-0, 204, 9th season, Ohio State

Two-time Pro Bowler. ... Key part of secondary tasked with slowing down Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski. ... Had 99-yard pick-6 in previous meeting with Patriots. ... Second in team history with four pick-6s, trailing Eric Allen.

Rodney McLeod, S (23), 5-10, 195, 6th season, Virginia

Signed five-year contract with Eagles after four seasons with Rams. ... Had career-high 117 tackles in 2016. ... Key guy in rushing defense.



Jake Elliott, K (4), 5-9, 170, 1st season, Memphis

Fifth-round pick by Bengals signed off practice squad when Caleb Sturgis was injured. ... Set postseason club record with 53-yard field goal in divisional round. ... Made 61-yarder to beat Giants during season.

Donnie Jones, P (8), 6-2, 221, 14th season, LSU

Averaged 45.3 yards per punt. Top punter in Eagles history in gross average, net average and punts inside 20.

Kenjon Barner, KR/PR (38), 5-9, 195, 4th season, Oregon

Filled in nicely after Darren Sproles was injured. ... Barner’s best punt return went for 76 yards.




Tom Brady, QB (12), 6-4, 225, 18th season, Michigan

Led NFL with 4,577 yards passing this season. ... Four-time Super Bowl MVP going for sixth ring ... Is 5-2 in Super Bowls ... Contender for third regular-season MVP award with 32 TD passes at age 40. ... If Eagles don’t bring pressure, he will pick them apart.

Dion Lewis, RB (33), 5-8, 195, 6th season, Pittsburgh

Played first two seasons with Eagles ... Missed next two seasons with injuries before joining Patriots in 2015 ... Had 896 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. ... One of most versatile RBs in league.

James White, RB (11), 5-10, 205, 4th season, Wisconsin

Set Super Bowl record with 14 receptions last year. ... Also set Super Bowl record by scoring 20 points (2 rushing touchdowns, 1 touchdown reception and 2-point conversion). Scored tying and winning touchdowns against Falcons. ... Solid pass-catching option out of backfield.

Brandin Cooks, WR, (14), 5-10, 189, 4th season, Oregon State

Acquired in trade with New Orleans. ... Provides deep threat for Brady. ... Second on team with 65 catches, 1,082 yards, 7 TDs.

Rob Gronkowski, TE (87), 6-6, 265, 8th season, Arizona

Had team-leading 69 receptions and 8 touchdowns. ... Suffered concussion in AFC championship game. ... Combination of size, strength and hands creates matchup nightmares. All-Pro who’s nearly impossible to stop with one single defender.

Nate Solder, LT (77), 6-8, 325, 7th season, Colorado

Has second-most important job on team: protecting Brady’s blindside ... First-round pick in 2011, also played right tackle. ... Solid contributor.

Joe Thuney, LG (62), 6-4, 305, 2nd season, North Carolina State

Third-round pick in 2016 who fits job description perfectly: diligent, unassuming, good student. ... Typical Patriots O-lineman.

David Andrews, C (60), 6-3, 295, 3rd season, Georgia

Another young blocker, Andrew became starter as rookie and performed well. ... Selected co-captain for first time in career. ... Missed two games with injury.

Shaq Mason, RG (69), 6-1, 310, 3rd season, Georgia Tech

Third young blocker who came in as rookie. ... Fourth-round pick in 2015, particularly strong in run game.

Cameron Fleming, RT (71), 6-6, 320, 4th season, Stanford

Replaced Marcus Cannon, who went on IR in December. ... Versatile, has seen some duty at left tackle. ... Also played special teams.



Eric Lee, DE (55), 6-3, 260, 1st season, South Florida

Signed off Buffalo practice squad on Nov. 21. ... Originally signed by Houston as rookie free agent. Spent 2016 on Texans practice squad. ... Went to training camp with Houston and released prior to start of season before joining Buffalo.

Lawrence Guy, DT (93), 6-4, 305, 7th season, Arizona State

Solid performer with 58 total tackles. ... Signed as unrestricted free agent from Baltimore on March 13. ... Drafted by Green Bay in seventh round of 2011 draft.

Malcom Brown, DT (90), 6-2, 320, 3rd season, Texas

First-rounder in 2015 who has been solid since joining team ... Missed three games, but still had 2½ sacks this season. ... Takes up lots of room inside.

Trey Flowers, DE (98), 6-2, 265, 3rd season, Arkansas

Patriots’ best pass rusher. Led team with 6½ sacks this season after 7 in 2016. ... Had team-leading 6 tackles and 2½ sacks in Super Bowl last year.

Kyle Van Noy, LB (53), 6-3, 243, 4th season, BYU

Second-round pick by Detroit in 2014. Acquired in trade on Oct. 21, 2016. ... Second on team with 5½ sacks. Began season at outside linebacker. Was asked to handle multiple roles, playing both on edge and middle of field at times.

Elandon Roberts, LB (52), 6-0, 235, 2nd season, Houston

Sixth-rounder from 2016 and helped fill void when Dont’a Hightower was lost for season with torn pectoral muscle.

James Harrison, LB (92), 6-0, 242, 15th season, Kent State

Won two Super Bowls with Steelers, had memorable 100-yard interception return for touchdown in Super Bowl 43. ... Situational player at this point of lengthy career. Another option in passing situations. ... Had 2 sacks in Pats debut in regular-season finale. ... Has 6 tackles in Patriots’ postseason wins.

Stephon Gilmore, CB (24), 6-1, 190, 6th season, South Carolina

Signed five-year, $65 million contract to come from Buffalo and struggled with inconsistency early on. ... Made key stop on fourth down on Jags’ final drive to preserve win in AFC title game.

Malcolm Butler, CB (21), 5-11, 190, 4th season, West Alabama

Still best known for interception of Russell Wilson at goal line to clinch Super Bowl win over Seattle three years ago. ... Signed one-year tender worth $3.9 million. Set to be unrestricted free agent in 2018.

Patrick Chung, S (23), 5-11, 215, 9th season, Oregon

Second-round pick in 2009 who had many ups and downs. ... Went to Eagles in 2013 and struggled, returned to New England and has been solid ... Hard-hitting tackler with better ball skills and recognition than in first term with Patriots.

Devin McCourty, S (32), 5-10, 195, 8th season, Rutgers

First-round pick in 2010. ... Defensive captain. ... Leader of secondary. ... Former cornerback who found home at safety. ... Twin Jason plays for Cleveland.

Duron Harmon, S (30), 6-1, 205, 5th season, Rutgers

Signed four-year deal to return. ... Led team with 4 interceptions, one of those was Ben Roethlisberger’s ill-fated fake spike in December at Pittsburgh.



Stephen Gostkowski, K (3), 6-1, 215, 12th season, Memphis

Team’s all-time scoring leader after replacing Adam Vinatieri ... Made 37 of 40 field goals and 45 of 47 PATs this season for 156 points, second in the league to Greg Zuerlein.

Ryan Allen, P (6), 6-2, 220, 5th season, Louisiana Tech

Averaged 43.4 yards on punts in fifth season in Foxborough. Had only 2 punts blocked in career. Previous time was 2015 regular season against Eagles.

Dion Lewis, RB (33), 5-8, 195, 6th season, Pittsburgh

In addition to leading Pats in rushing, Lewis retuned 23 kicks for 570 yards, including 103-yarder against Denver.

Danny Amendola, PR (80), 5-11, 190, 8th season, Texas Tech

Was third on team with 61 receptions. ... Caught two TD passes in fourth quarter to clinch rally against Jags in AFC title game. ... Had 20-yard punt return to spark winning drive.


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