Of the 53 New England Patriots players who suited up for Super Bowl XLIX two years ago, 30 have since moved on from Foxboro.
With Super Bowl LI one week away, here’s a look at how the Patriots’ current roster differs from the 2014 team that upended the Seattle Seahawks in arguably one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time:
Super Bowl XLIX: Tom Brady
Super Bowl LI: Brady
Obviously, there’s no change here. Brady earned Super Bowl MVP honors for his four-touchdown performance against the Seahawks, and he remains one of the best QBs in the NFL even at age 39.
Super Bowl XLIX: Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, James Develin (fullback)
Super Bowl LI: Blount, Dion Lewis, James White, Bolden, Develin
Blount wasn’t much of a factor against Seattle, gaining just 40 yards on 14 carries. Vereen didn’t make much hay on the ground, either (four carries for 13 yards), but he played a huge role in the passing game, catching a game-high 11 passes for 64 yards.
White is the 2016 version of Vereen — his 60 catches were the most by a running back in the Bill Belichick era — and Lewis has the versatility to hurt teams on the ground, through the air and on special teams, as evidenced by his three-touchdown showing in this year’s divisional-round game against the Houston Texans. Both will be making their respective Super Bowl debuts.
As for Blount, he’s back on the big stage after posting career highs in carries and rushing yards and setting a franchise record for rushing touchdowns during the regular season.
Super Bowl XLIX: Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola
Super Bowl LI: Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Amendola, Michael Floyd
The Patriots are far deeper at wideout than they were two years ago, and you can make a strong case that this current group is the most talented Brady has ever played with. Edelman and Hogan both had career years, Mitchell looks like one of the best receivers Belichick has ever drafted (which, admittedly, is not saying much) and Amendola usually is good for a key third-down conversion or two per game.
Floyd looked great in Week 17 after the Patriots claimed him off waivers, but he struggled in the divisional round and was inactive in the AFC title game. That very well could be his fate again on Super Bowl Sunday, as the Patriots are unlikely to dress five receivers plus special teamer Matthew Slater.
Super Bowl XLIX: Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Tim Wright
Super Bowl LI: Martellus Bennett, Matt Lengel
Losing Gronkowski to a season-ending back injury hasn’t slowed the Patriots, who have yet to lose since the big tight end went down. Bennett has been a workhorse this season, playing in every game despite dealing with ankle, knee and shoulder injuries.
Super Bowl XLIX: Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer
Super Bowl LI: Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon
This unit has undergone nearly a full revamp, with Solder being the only holdover after Vollmer spent all of 2016 on the PUP list. New England’s O-line improved drastically this season after a rough 2015, with Solder, Cannon and Mason putting together particularly impressive campaigns.
Super Bowl XLIX: Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch
Super Bowl LI: Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine
Branch was on the field for just 19 of New England’s 56 defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLIX. Now, he’s the elder statesman of a D-line that features a rookie in Valentine and a second-year pro in Brown. Branch has been an unsung hero for the Patriots’ defense this year and is playing the best football of his career.
Super Bowl XLIX: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones
Super Bowl LI: Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long
Flowers blossomed (sorry) into a breakout star for the Patriots this season, tallying a team-high seven sacks over New England’s final nine regular-season games. This unit as a whole hasn’t rushed the passer with much ferocity this season, but it’s been very stout against the run.
Super Bowl XLIX: Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Akeem Ayers
Super Bowl LI: Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts
Hightower is the leader of the Patriots’ defense, and while neither Van Noy nor McClellin is nearly as athletic as Collins is, both have been solid overall since Collins’ stunning trade to the Cleveland Browns. One weakness of this unit is its coverage skills, which will be tested against the Atlanta Falcons’ dynamic running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Super Bowl XLIX: Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler
Super Bowl LI: Butler, Ryan, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones
The fact that Butler was fifth on the Super Bowl XLIX depth chart and first on the current one illustrates how much change this unit has undergone. Butler, Ryan and Rowe should play the lion’s share of snaps next Sunday, with Jones playing primarily on special teams. Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman likely will be inactive.
Super Bowl XLIX: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
Super Bowl LI: McCourty, Chung, Harmon
No changes here, as McCourty, Chung and Harmon have been rocks at the safety spots this season. McCourty and Chung barely leave the field, with Harmon coming on in dime or “big nickel” packages. Nate Ebner also could fill in here if necessary, though he typically only plays special teams.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images