New England Patriots rookie punter Jake Bailey won the starting job over longtime incumbent Ryan Allen in the preseason… and he’s been on fire ever since.
Allen played arguably his most important role in Super Bowl LIII last February, when he was instrumental in helping the Patriots defeat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. Allen punted five times and pinned the Rams within their own 10-yard line on three of those five tries in the game.
Four years earlier in Super Bowl XLIX, Allen punted four times for 196 net yards to help the Patriots win the battle of field position that day and ultimately defeat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.
And yet apparently, none of these big-time performances were enough to ward off the inevitability of competition… and of the Patriots bringing in a much younger, stronger, more exciting prospect at one of the game’s most overlooked positions.
Jake Bailey was selected by New England in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Stanford University. Bailey was a 3rd Team All-American punter back in 2017 while with the Cardinal, and he averaged 43.8 yards per punt during his illustrious college career.
With all the success the team had with Allen, the selection of Bailey may have come as a surprise to a lot of people; especially considering there had been more issues recently with Stephen Gostkowski converting on field goals, rather than Allen nailing his punts.
Both Allen and Gostkowski were unrestricted free agents this past offseason, and many wondered if it might be Gostkowski heading elsewhere and not not Allen. Both players were eventually signed to new contracts, although both of them were relatively modest deals.
At this point during the summer with two punters on the roster, the Patriots were going to have a position battle during training camp to see who would end up the starter for the regular season. Ultimately, Bailey won the job and the team released Allen, making him a free agent – he recently got picked up by the Atlanta Falcons, by the way.
So far through nine games of Bailey’s rookie season for the Pats, he’s averaging an impressive 44.6 yards per punt. Bailey is currently ranked third in the NFL with 2,141 punt yards. In Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills, Bailey booted his longest punt of the season (and his career) with a 63-yard punt, en route to earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week recognition.
We often hear Bill Belichick refer to players as “weapons” in football games, especially in regards to special teams contributions. Jake Bailey has been a weapon all season long for the New England Patriots, and we shouldn’t expect him to slow down any time soon.
Here’s some of what Belichick said about Bailey on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria radio show:
"“Jake’s done a great job for us. He’s hit the ball extremely well. His directional punting has been outstanding. He’s really placed the ball on the sideline multiple times already this season to eliminate returns.”"
Special teams ace and team captain Matthew Slater has made his career off making impactful plays on special teams. When Bailey was named the Week 1 starter over Allen, Slater had this to say about his new punter, per Boston Herald’s Rich Thompson:
"“We are going to support Jake now and do whatever we can to help him so he can be successful as well and take this thing one day at a time. As a gunner you are only as good as your punter.”"
The New England Patriots really value the special teams phase of a football game. With Slater leading by example in one of the better special teams units of the NFL, rookie Jake Bailey is able to be the “weapon” he truly is, and it’s paying dividends so far for this team.