Two of the biggest difference makers for the Patriots in 2023 will be special teamers

Michigan State's Bryce Baringer punts the ball against Ohio State during the second quarter on
Michigan State's Bryce Baringer punts the ball against Ohio State during the second quarter on / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA
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Chad Ryland - kicker

Since the departure of Stephen Gostkowski after the 2019 season, the Patriots have struggled to find a reliable replacement.

There was the questionable decision to draft Justin Rohrwasser in the 2020 draft, whose short stint with the team began and ended dramatically.

Nick Folk was initially signed to the practice squad that same year, with no real intention for him to be their permanent kicker. But after his performance, despite being bounced back and forth from the practice squad and the main roster, Folk was re-signed and has remained part of the team.

Through 2021 and most of 2022, Folk was reliable and often the only consistent scorer on the team. However, his performance last season went through peaks and valleys, bringing up the question if Folk would continue at the position the following season.

Without knowing the answer to that with certainty, Belichick made sure he got his hands on the kicker he wanted in this year's draft, trading up to select Chad Ryland out of Maryland.

He was assumingly brought in to replace Folk, who will turn 39 during the season. But there's also speculation about keeping the veteran on the team if things go awry with Ryland.

Folk's presence could be a vital component to the rookie's growth, to learn from a kicker with 15 years of experience in the league and who is quite familiar with the challenges of being a new member of the Patriots.

Both Baringer and Ryland have the potential to be standout performers during the 2023 season, as their performances will be vital to the overall success of the team.

Because of their highly-regarded skillsets and top rankings entering the draft, there is a lot of hope that they will live up to those expectations and help get the special teams back on track.