Prior to the 2015 AFC Championship, the Patriots special teams unit was consistently one of the best in the league. A missed extra point against Denver has seemingly spelled the decline of Stephen Gostkowski. This is not to say that the Patriots All-Time Leading Scorer is a bad kicker. He is still one of the best in the league. However, he went from automatic to questionable. The Patriots special teams unit has also had some other disappointing marks, such as a dismal showing against Philadelphia two years ago. However, in general, the Patriots special teams unit is one of the best in the league, excelling at preventing big plays and pinning their opponents deep in their own territory. They should once again be one of the highlights of the 2018 Patriots.
Gostkowski’s body of work speaks for itself. He has a career field goal percentage of 87.6%, which is good for third all time. While he has struggled in some big moments in recent years (2015 AFC Championship, Super Bowl 51, Super Bowl 52), his everyday work makes up for that even when it isn’t noticed. For example, most fans will not notice that the Patriots defense is consistently set up with great field position, which has to do with Gostkowski excelling at placing his kickoffs right outside the goal line, preventing touchbacks. He is still one of the best players at his position in the league, and the Patriots are lucky to have him heading into 2018.
Allen has a solid career average yards per punt at 45.3 yards, which is tied for 15th all time. He has been a consistent player throughout his career, very rarely botching punts or fumbling snaps. He also adds some flair to the position because he is a lefty, which is an added difficulty for opposing teams.
The Patriots long snapper out of Navy is a high character player. His position does have value, and he has been very good at his job despite playing in miserable conditions. The Patriots are better for having him.
Slater is arguably one of the best special teams players of all time. He is a brilliant gunner who beats some of the best blockers in the game and makes ridiculous tackles. He is an incredibly hard worker and one of the best leaders in the locker room. Slater will be able to continue to teach and work with young players and continue the team’s proficiency on coverage units.
King is a fantastic special teams player like Slater who is one of the best tacklers on the team. He is a versatile athlete who excels at open field tackles.
People like to overlook special teams. That’s extremely unfortunate because special teams can win games, and not always in flashy ways. Being able to win the game starts by winning the battle for field position, and Gostkowski, Allen, Slater, and King are all crucial to helping the Patriots dominate that part of the game.
Until next time – B$