New England Patriots 2019 training camp primer: Specialists

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One of the biggest storylines of the New England Patriots’ 2019 training camp could be the battle between two punters for one starting job.

Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots are famous for prioritizing the oft-overlooked third phase of the NFL game. Part of the reason the Pats have been so successful over the past two decades comes from their balance as a team: if the offense isn’t top-notch, the defense is there to bail them out; conversely, if the defense is leaky, the offense scores enough points to offset the issue.

Through it all, the Patriots teams that have consistently won the battle of field position over the years have often gone the deepest in the postseason. While many NFL franchises will go to great pains to load up on one side of the ball (often at the expense of the other), it’s rare to find a team that so often reserves game-day roster spots for players that don’t actively contribute on either offense or defense.

That’s Belichick’s Patriots, though. Brandon King, Nate Ebner, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, Larry Izzo… these are just a handful of the many players who have come through New England and made names for themselves with this fanbase through their achievements on special teams – and only on special teams.

Consider: Matthew Slater is a three-time Super Bowl champion, a seven-time Pro Bowler, and a five-time All-Pro. He’s spent all 11 years of his professional football career with the Patriots as a wide receiver, and yet he has just one (1!) career reception in all that time.

And yet Slater is regularly voted a team captain and considered one of the franchise’s cornerstones, simply because of his value on special teams.

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