New England Patriots 53-man 2018 Roster Projection v1.0: Special Teams

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots kicks a point after against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots kicks a point after against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

As we get closer to the start of training camp for the New England Patriots, here’s how they may look on special teams to star the season.

After going through all of the position, Part 12 of 12 concludes with a look at the special teams roles for the New England Patriots:


Starters: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

Back-up(s): N/A

Roster Bubble Boy(s): Corey Bojorquez


With a 25-25 split on offense and defense, the Patriots have just three roster spots open for their special teams specialists. As has happened in recent years, there is little competition for the specialist positions this year. In fact, it is only at punter where there is any real competition.

Ryan Allen has held on to the Patriots’ punting job for the past five seasons since beating out Zoltan Mesko in 2013. Last year Allen had just 58 punts for 2,515–the fewest number of punts and yards since coming into the league (all stats from unless otherwise noted). However, his average of 43.4 yards per punt was his lowest for a season.

Despite the alarming punt average declining for the fourth straight season, Allen actually had his second best net average (factoring in touchback yardage and yards returned) in New England at 40.5 yards per punt. Allen had career lows in touchbacks (three), punts out of bounds (five), and the New England special teams unit allowed just 105 yards on 23 punt returns (less than five yards per return).

In the postseason, Allen had ten punts (none in the Super Bowl), and five of those were inside the 20 yard line. He forced five fair catches, had two out-of-bounds and just one touchback. For the entire postseason, he had just one punt returned and that was for zero yards. His yard per punt average (41.9 yards) and net average (39.9 yards) looked pedestrian, but he was actually a key player in getting New England to the Super Bowl.

Ryan’s last three punts of the postseason–with New England trailing Jacksonville in the second half of the AFC Championship–saw the lefty punter pin Jacksonville within ten yards of their own end zone each time. Three touchbacks on high, booming punts pinned the Jaguars at their own ten, nine, and then ten yard line.

The first touchback was mid-way through the third quarter with Jacksonville up 17-10 and forced a three-and-out. After the Patriots stalled after getting great field position, Allen pinned them again. His final punt was in the fourth quarter when New England stalled with six minutes to play and trailing by three points. Allen pinned Jacksonville at their ten and the Patriots defense held and set-up great field position for the winning drive to get to the Super Bowl.

Allen will face competition in camp from another lefty punter (a Bill Belichick staple as he has always had lefty punters in New England). This time it is undrafted free agent Corey Bojorquez from the University of New Mexico. Bojorquez was All-Mountain West first team at punter and averaged 47.3 yards per punt and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy award for college punters.


At kicker, Stephen Gostkowski remains one of the most consistent kickers in NFL history. Unfortunately for Gostkowski, he has had to follow probably the greatest kicker in NFL history in Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri had the greatest field goal in playoff history (AFC Divisional round versus Oakland after 2001 season) and most dramatic kick in playoff history (game winner at the end of Super Bowl 36 for the Patriots.

Big kicks have not been part of Gostkowski’s legacy. He went nine years without missing a PAT (point-after-touchdown) and then missed one versus Denver in the AFC Championship game after the 2015 season that came back to haunt the Patriots when a failed two-point conversion cost them going to overtime and potentially a Super Bowl. He missed another PAT and a short field goal in Super Bowl 51 against the Falcons as well.

He missed a 53-yard field goal against Tennessee in the Divisional Playoffs round last year and missed a 26-yard field goal in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. That field goal miss was only partially his fault as the snap and hold both left something to be desired. Long-snapper Joe Cardona’s snap was low and inside on holder Ryan Allen and he bobbled the ball. Gostkowski came to a full stop and then had to try and kick the ball out-of-rhythm. His missed extra point in the Super Bowl was all on him.

He has been a weapon on kickoffs in his time in New England as he had been able to boom the kick out of the end zone for a touchback or pin return teams deep with high, shorter kicks. In the past three years he has allowed more returns but for less average yards. Gostkowski has had little competition in his time in New England and again appears safe from anyone trying to take his job in training camp in 2018.

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Long Snapper:

The final special spot is long-snapper Joe Cardona. Cardona, who had the dismal snap that led to a missed field goal in Super Bowl 52 but otherwise has been consistent. Snaps rarely are off-target from the active naval officer. He has twice needed permission to play in the Super Bowl from the Navy as the big game conflicted with drills and has had to get clearance from the Secretary of the Navy to play in the NFL.

New England again has no real competition in camp to go against Cardona and despite his poor snap in the Super Bowl costing New England three points early, he should be back for another season. Gostkowski will be back again as well and the only real competition is at punter.

Final Word:

Bojorquez should get some Patriots beat writers banging out frenzied Twitter posts about his powerful leg in training camp, but the rookie will have to bring more than that to unseat Allen. Unless he masters directional punting and shows a knack for dropping high punts inside the ten yard line, Allen should hold off the rookie in 2018.