The New England Patriots have the best core special-teamer in the NFL in wide receiver Matthew Slater, and that’s why he’s guaranteed the sixth (or seventh) spot at receiver. Beyond excellent coverage work, Slater is a team captain and one of the biggest leaders on this team. All it takes is a glance at one of his quotes or a quick look at this play to see why Bill Belichick loves him. At his very core, Slater is a “Do your job” player; I mean, he is a core special teamer.
Belichick said, via WEEI, “Matt is one of the best in the league. I think he has a lot of the qualities that we were talking about. Sure, any time they have to double somebody, that makes it one less guy they can use somewhere else in the return. He almost always draws two guys out there unless they’re in an eight-man rush.
“Most of the time there’s two guys out there – fourth-and-short, where they’re trying to protect the box – but he draws a lot of double teams and deservedly so. He does an outstanding job of covering punts and as I said, it’s a tough position to play but he’s got all the qualities that we talked about to be good. He does a good job for us.”
Slater is fast, strong, and smart, and those are traits that Belichick said are important for what Slater has to do on special teams. Belichick also added that Slater’s aggressiveness is key, and it’s easy to forget the underrated role that a guy like Slater plays. Field position is an important part of this game, and the Patriots are able to suffocate an opponent’s field position with some of the best kick return coverage in the NFL (the best, if you ask me). Now that the Patriots have Leon Washington in the fold as an excellent return man, the Patriots are well on their way to creating a big imbalance in field position.