4 roster battles to watch for as the New England Patriots return for training camp

  • Who will become the next go-to guy for Mac Jones?
  • Will a rookie kicker win the job from Nick Folk?
  • Can a second-year running back secure the backup role behind Stevenson?
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills / Bryan M. Bennett/GettyImages
3 of 5


It has been quite some time since we've seen an intriguing special teams roster battle in New England, but after Belichick selected the best kicker (and punter) in the draft, we will most definitely see a battle of the kickers this summer.

After all of the recent mishaps the Patriots have had in finding themselves a competent kicker, they really lucked out when signing 35-year-old Nick Folk in 2019.

He was initially brought in as a replacement of a replacement since longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski had been placed on injured reserve in early October. Mike Nugent had been signed to take his place but only lasted for four games before being released.

Folk was signed shortly after that, released a month later when the team signed another kicker, but was brought back a week later and has been with the team since.

Through his four seasons with the Patriots, Folk has become one of the most reliable players on the roster. He hasn't been perfect, but his effort and consistency have helped win several games throughout that time, making him a valuable member of the team.

Now coming into the 2023 season, he's coming off a year where he missed five field goals and three extra points, which is pretty decent. But he will be turning 39 this year, and it's difficult to know whether his slight decline in performance is due to age or skill, making his spot on the team a bit unsafe entering training camp.

He will compete with rookie Chad Ryland, who the Patriots traded up for to select in the fourth round of this year's draft. It was shocking, as not many teams would trade up to get a kicker, but it proved how much Belichick and Co. prioritized the position well before the upcoming season.

Considered one of the best kickers of the class, Ryland will have some expectations to live up to, with some tough competition as well. Folk didn't have too much decline last season to instill overwhelming concern regarding his performance, but the team is clearly preparing for the future by moving to take Ryland.

There will almost certainly be a roster battle between the two kickers, with not much to currently go off of to indicate who will come out the victor.

It's safest to say that both will make the team. Folk will provide the veteran security and mentorship, while Ryland will have the opportunity to gain experience and learn from a great performer. But things change quickly in the NFL, so anything can happen.