Tag Archives: Joe Cardona

New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King
Out: Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Shalique Calhoun

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Specialists

Steve Balestrieri
July 24, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots’ 2019 training camp begins tomorrow, and it should prove to be a very interesting one once again. With approximately 65-75 percent of the roster entrenched on the top end, there should be plenty of competition for the few spots available at the back end of the 53-man roster. 

As always, injuries can play a key role, as we saw the other day with the Atlanta Falcons, players can get hurt and be lost for the season really quickly. That opens the door for guys who are on the bubble to work their way on to and carve out roles. 

Of course, for the past 15 years, an undrafted free agent has made his way to the Patriots’ roster. And frequently those players have not just made the team but ended up playing a significant amount of snaps.

Which brings us to the final positional group of our training camp guide, the specialists. Only one position, for now, has any competition. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Long Snapper Joe Cardona are unopposed in camp and those two should sleep pretty soundly this summer. The punter position will be one to watch closely as veteran Ryan Allen will be battling with rookie Jake Bailey to keep his job this year.

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona, Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey

Locks – Gostkowski, Cardona

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Allen, Bailey

Long Shot – none

Discussion – With kicker and long snapper both locked on the roster as neither Gostkowski nor Cardona have any competition this summer, the focus turns to the punting game between Allen and Bailey.

Ryan Allen faced a bit of competition last year in training camp when the team brought in Corey Bojorquez last year. But the Patriots had no intention on making it a full competition and didn’t allow Bojorquez to punt in any of the preseason games in a hope to stash him on the practice squad. But he was scooped up quickly by Buffalo. Allen had an inconsistent regular season but turned it on when the games counted. In Super Bowl LIII, he was arguably the game’s MVP, where he pinned the Rams back time and again with outstanding directional punting. He outshone the Rams Johnny Hekker who is considered by many to be the best punter in the NFL. 

Bailey was picked by the Patriots in the 5th round of this spring’s NFL Draft. The team actually moved up to pick him which one doesn’t normally hear about a punter. The scouting report on Bailey is that he has a tremendous leg and sails the ball very high with outstanding hang time. The only knock on him was consistency at putting the ball closer to the sidelines.

Bailey’s strong leg was on display during the Senior Bowl week and then again this spring. We watched him put some balls high into the flight pattern of Logan airport with tremendous range. But we also saw some of those inconsistencies of not getting the ball close to a sideline where the returner would have a narrow lane, an important factor in Special Teams coordinator Joe Judge’s book.

Bailey is versatile and was the primary kick off specialist for Stanford, something he could relieve Stephen Gostkowski from doing as he gets a bit older and can fill in for Gostkowski on field goals and extra points if he were to get hurt.  Versatility goes a long way on a Bill Belichick team. Bailey has a big advantage of range and hang time while Allen gets the nod on directional punting and consistency. 

Bailey is also a smart kid (Stanford graduate speaks for itself), he worked for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was herself a Stanford graduate for a time and is working on getting his private pilot’s license. He’s pretty athletic, so if the Patriots ever decided to use him with a fake punt, it is something he could handle. 

Bailey at this point would seem to have the edge over the incumbent veteran Allen at this stage of the game, but keep in mind there is a very long way to go. But if you make it down to training camp in the coming days, keep your eye on him. 

The Patriots are in very good shape heading into the season. Gostkowski remains one of the better kickers in the NFL and is as reliable as they come. Cardona’s name is never called, which is exactly what you want out of a long-snapper. And whoever wins the punting competition should do really well. And it is safe to say, that both will be punting in the NFL this season. The only question is, which one will be punting in Foxboro? 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots 2018 Training Camp Primer – Special Teams

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The wait is nearly over as the Patriots head into training camp tomorrow. NFL Football is back among us until February, and not a moment too soon.

The Patriots offseason has been mired in innuendo, speculation, with an almost soap opera-like aura that seems more like “keeping up with the Kardashians” than the Patriot Way. So now we can fill the airwaves of football talk again.

There should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. But for our final position there shouldn’t be a lot of movement at the key spots.  We’re on to the Special Teams.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks- Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona,

The team brought in no competition for their kicker and long snapper which speaks volumes in the confidence they have in both.

Gostkowski had a nice comeback season in 2017 in the kicking game. He was good on 92.5 percent of his field goals, hitting on 37 of 40 attempts including going 4 – 4 on attempts over 50 yards including career-long 62-yarder against the Raiders.

Gostkowski continues to be outstanding with his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone. Opponents drives average start was their 24 yard line, the best in the NFL.

Cardona has been a solid accurate long-snapper since entering the league. A testament to his prowess is that you very, very rarely hear his name called in a game. Which means his snaps on field goals, extra points and punts are usually spot on. He’s done a terrific job of balancing his job with the Patriots and his duties as a Naval Officer which isn’t an easy task as well.

Facing no camp competition again this year, Gostkowski and Cardona need only worrying themselves to be ready to go for the season opener.

On the Bubble: Ryan Allen, Corey Bojorquez

Allen is facing competition for the first time in his tenure since besting Zoltan Mesko in the 2013. And while his punting average has gone down each year for the past three years, he has actually become more effective at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line.

Rewind to the 2nd half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen pinned the Jags offense inside the 10-yard line three times in the second half, flipping field position for the Patriots and having a big role in the comeback victory to send the team on to the Super Bowl.

But he’s in the last year of his contract, and this is something we’ve seen before with the Patriots, Bill Belichick will change things up every few years with his punters. We’ve seen Ken Walter, Josh Miller, Chris Hanson and Mesko, who lost his job to Allen. He’s been here five years but faces serious competition for the first time.

Bojorquez is another left-footed punter from New Mexico. Last season for the Lobos, he punted 67 times with an average of 47.3 yards, so he has a tremendously strong leg. He had 12 of those turn into touchbacks, which will need to be remedied. But despite his average, 25 of his punts were fair caught by the opposition which speaks highly of the amount of hang time.

We were witnesses to that during June’s minicamp. Bojorquez was absolutely booming the ball with incredible hang time. One punt which went well over 50 yards, hung up so long, punt returner Riley McCarron would have been forced to fair catch the ball during a game.

This should be a fantastic competition, while Bojorquez has the edge on leg strength and distance, Allen’s directional punting and consistency gives him the nod there. This should be fun to watch.

The Patriots place a premium on players who excel on Special Teams among them Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Geneo Grissom, Nicholas Grigsby among others. Those players were listed elsewhere as positional players but are truly more special team’s aces than offensive or defensive players.

Ebner in particular was missed for his expertise as the personal protector on punts after he went on IR last year.  

Some of the new players or ones returning from injury are also special teams mavens such as Cordarrelle Patterson, who besides being the NFL’s best kick returner, is a very good gunner. Marquis Flowers was brought over last season for his STs experience but parlayed that into a role on defense as well.

What it means is that these players will be fighting for their roster spots every day as well as the positional players. Keep an eye on the kickoff and punt coverage units during training camp. Because those positions will ultimately tell the tale for some of the bottom of the roster players who will either make the team or be released. Bill Belichick and ST’s coach Joe Judge will have some interesting decisions to make.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Final New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 4.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 28, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due after the Giants game. The hour glass is running out and if players are going to make a move, they have a week remaining to convince the coaches that they’re worth keeping.

With some serious injuries to Derek Rivers and Julian Edelman, that will open up two spots that we had as locks. Ditto for the release of Kony Ealy. So, despite that, we can expect that the Patriots initial 53-man roster will change rather quickly as they’ll probably pick up a player or two via the waiver wire. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for an edge player either as they are really thin there right now.

With that in mind, we’ll take our final crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Lions game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Out: None
New England has traditionally kept two QBs on their roster. Last year they kept three because of the crazy Brady suspension. I didn’t expect Brissett to push Garoppolo for the #2 slot this season, but his play has been really disappointing. He holds the ball far too long and his arm, though cannon-like has the accuracy of an old smooth-bore musket and not where it should be.

But I just don’t see them cutting bait with Brissett yet. Is it possible? You betcha, but not this year. I think they will stick with three but Brissett isn’t a lock by any means.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really wanted to find a way to keep both Foster and Bolden. Foster is going to be on a roster somewhere on Opening Weekend. If it isn’t here, it will be somewhere else. I thought of keeping only two TEs and utilizing him in an RB/Slot receiver mode where Devlin and an extra tackle can help in the blocking. And they still may do that.

Bolden is a superb STs performer but with Gillislee back and looking healthy, I don’t see how they keep him without cutting from somewhere else.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

Out: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, Jacob Hollister
While he’s played well the past few weeks, O’Shaughnessy’s slot is still tenuous at best. He’s a better blocker but not as good as a receiver as Hollister. The UDFA rookie from Wyoming had a big game against Jax and then was barely used after that. It is obvious the team likes O’Shaughnessy and wants to keep him. Lengel, who is banged up didn’t show enough to warrant keeping him around.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Out: Julian Edelman (IR), Matthew Slater (IR), Devin Lucien, Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
Julian Edelman’s injury opens the door for the Patriots to keep Austin Carr, who to me has just barely edged out Devin Lucien for the final spot at the position. Both Edelman and Slater go to IR, Slater will return later this season, which will make for another interesting decision. The top four are locks and will be needed to step up a bit more.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

No changes here. Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and have played well this summer. Karras gets the nod over Ferentz who will be a primary practice squad candidate

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks (IR)
The good news is that Nate Solder is back at practice and although he didn’t make the trip to Detroit, he should be ready for the Chiefs game on Opening Night. Garcia has been banged up, does his injury preclude him from making the roster and going on IR? That may open the door a crack for Conor McDermott or LaAdrian Waddle (also banged up) to step in. But it appears that Solder, Cannon, and Fleming are locked in right now.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (25):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta,
With the lack of enough edge players and the release of Kony Ealy, this opens the door for another player to step up inside and that is Adam Butler who has had a very solid camp. He’s shown the ability to penetrate inside and disrupt things in the running game. Branch, Brown, and Lawrence Guy are locked. Guy had a solid camp and with Butler, the team may opt for more of a 3-4 look with the bigger bodies inside.

Hamilton, Kilgo, and Augusta played well this summer and are victims of numbers more than anything else.

EDGE RUSHER (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom,

Out: Derek Rivers (IR), Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Ealy was released early…which means that he was in no way in their plans for 2017 after an up and down training camp. Depth has become a serious issue here. Wise will be looked to now, to provide the pressure with Trey Flowers. Grissom right now is my 53rd player on the roster. He could be replaced somewhere else but sticks around for his STs play. But he’s been virtually invisible on defense and that isn’t a good sign.

Look for the linebackers to provide help in this realm. Dont’a Hightower, Van Noy, and Langi will all be utilized as edge rushers as well. This is an area they may cherry pick off of the waiver wire and/or swing a trade. I think Davis will go to the practice squad and possibly play a factor down the road sometime in the future.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Trevor Bates

Out: Elandon Roberts (IR), Jonathan Freeny, Brooks Ellis
I had the team keeping just five linebackers all summer but with the dearth of edge players, they keep an extra LB and those guys will help out on the edge as well. David Harris is an early-down inside run stuffer who is a liability in coverage (see Roberts). But the difference is, he’s a guy who is an established, smart veteran and will be rarely out of position. Hightower is a guy who can play inside or on the edge as a rusher, as well as Van Noy.

Langi and Bates, the last addition to the linebacking crew both had a good summer and training camp. Langi was a bit overaggressive at times as a pass rusher, but he’ll learn to temper those tendencies. Bates noses out Belichick favorite and STs standout Freeny and Roberts goes to IR.

CORNERBACK (6): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Kenny Moore, Cyrus Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely
The top four are locked and ready for the season. Gilmore had, in my opinion, a terrific summer. He’s adapted extremely well to the Patriots system and should be an outstanding addition. He and Butler promise to be a dynamic pair of corners on the edge. Rowe and Jonathan Jones have split the nickel corner duties and will continue to do so, depending on the matchups. Both played well this summer. Kenny More displayed a nose for the ball all summer and just beats out the veteran Justin Coleman. Cyrus Jones, for now, is a corner in name only. He’s the primary Kick returner but the team may ultimately decide to go with Dion Lewis/Amendola, in which case he’d be expendable.

SAFETY (5): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Nate Ebner

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers, neither of whom plays much defense although Ebner has played in spots in the past.

Jordan Richards is a favorite of Belichick and the team is trying every way of keeping him around. They switched him to the linebacker position in the “Big Nickel” look, the Pat Chung role and he was as inconsistent as he’s been elsewhere. Too slow, too stiff with a penchant for taking bad angles. Jones was hurt all summer, Travis played well in spots. Both may be candidates for the practice squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona,

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems to have a mental block for extra points. But is solid on his field goal attempts and his kickoffs which are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. We haven’t mentioned Cardona much at all….which tells you his snaps have been right on the money.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Special Teams

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Locked, Stocked and Plenty of Depth

The Patriots head into training camp at the end of next week and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. And now, finally, we’re on to the Special Teams.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation. And some serious decisions will have to be made to get to the 53-man limit at the end of camp this summer.

Our earlier evaluations looked at the:
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties

So next up is the Patriots’ Special Teams. Without any serious challengers for the three players involved in the kicking game (kicker, punter, long-snapper), it would be hard to say they’re not locked. Where things get interesting is in the specialists and we’ll cover that below.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater
The team brought in no competition for the three players most involved in the kicking game this summer. That tells you a lot about the confidence that they have in each of these players.

Gostkowski had a downer of a season for him making only 84.4 percent of his field goals (27 of 32) and missing three extra points (46 of 49) which had always been automatic with him. He missed two more extra points in the playoffs which could have resulted in a disaster had the Patriots not made a pair of two-point conversions in the Super Bowl comeback.

But one area of his game that is outstanding is his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone.  But although the team didn’t bring in competition (surprising as it is), he’ll have to be more accurate this season.

Ryan Allen and Joe Cardona go over snap placement in training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ryan Allen is coming off his career best in terms of net yardage (41.4), the fifth-year veteran has been very dependable and steady on holding for Gostkowski and his directional punting has gotten steadily better.

He was at his best during a 27-0 whitewashing of Houston. That night Allen put six punts inside the 20-yard line pinning the Texans deep all night. His seventh punt? Downed right at the 20. He was awarded and deservedly so the AFC’s Special Team’s Player of the Week for that.

Cardona has been juggling his duties with the Navy while being a long-snapper with the Patriots for the past two seasons. He’s been very accurate with his snaps and very few have been off-target, especially with the field goals and extra points. With his position, the only time we really notice him is when he makes a mistake. And he’s made very few during his tenure.

Matthew Slater is a team captain, a perennial All-Pro gunner on the Special Teams and one of those indispensable character guys every successful team has. He’s frequently mentioned a tremendous locker room presence.

Mike Reiss from ESPN recently highlighted how when the rookies arrived, the coaches told them that Slater was a good example to follow. UDFA Austin Carr sought him out and Slater has taken him under his wing. One of the highlights of last season was a very emotional Slater talking with Bart Starr’s wife when he found out he’d been named the recipient of the award in Starr’s name.  Slater enters his 10th year in the league and is locked.

Near Roster Locks: Nate Ebner, Brandon King
Two of the safeties that the Patriots carry make their bones on special teams. Ebner was allowed to chase his dream of an Olympic gold medal in Rugby last training camp and the coaches wore Ebner shirts to practice in support. That speaks volumes.

Ebner played a mere 18 snaps at strong safety in 2016. But he remains a core special teams’ player and his role isn’t changing anytime soon. He played on all four core STs and was on the field for approximately 80 percent of the snaps in 2016. He serves as Allen’s punt protector….and they haven’t had any blocked.

Brandon King getting feedback from STs Coach Joe Judge. (SBalestrieri photo)

King didn’t play a single snap on defense in 2016 but is nearly a lock for the roster due to his superb play on Special Teams. The Patriots signed the UDFA in 2015 and we saw right away that the team was intrigued. STs coach Joe Judge spent an incredible amount of one-on-one time with the rookie and he’s been a fixture on the STs since.

He was on the field for about 70 percent of the special teams’ snaps in 2016 and was on all four core special teams units.

On the Bubble: None

Very little looks to change with the Patriots special teams in 2017. They have a really solid base with two very good kickers, a reliable long snapper, and three impressive special teams’ mavens. The kicker, punter, and long-snapper don’t have any competition this summer so they’ll not be sweating training camp wondering if they’ll make the roster.

And the three specialists really have little to fear this year as well. Any newcomer will have to really step up to the plate to unseat one of these three. If a new player is to make the team, they’ll probably have to bump one of the positional players.

Barring injuries, this unit is solid and ready to go for the 2017 season.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Best Of Social Media: New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship Ring Night

Robert Alvarez
June 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm ET

On Friday night, New England Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft hosted the teams Super Bowl championship ring ceremony at his Brookline MA home.

The headliner for the night began with news the 2016 ring contained quite possibly one of the greatest subtle tributes to the teams historic comeback victory. The ring contained exactly 283 diamonds, meant to commemorate the 28-3 deficit the team overcame in the second half and included an engraved message that read “Greatest Comeback Ever.”

The social media posts that followed as the night progressed would make any Patriots fan light up like it was February 5th, 2017 all over again, so without further ado below are some of the best sights and sounds.

Date night ❤ #Patriots super bowl ring ceremony

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJI9XYBVgM/?taken-by=tombrady

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVJT6mLhPdS/?taken-by=tombrady

Turn Up Champs!

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

A rare occasion for Head Coach Bill Belichick as he was spotted wearing all of his championship rings from his NFL career. Seven Super Bowl titles across the Giants and Patriots including three AFC Championship rings from 1996, 2007 and 2011.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLAXCGgVyf/

This happened last night ~ and then this happened! #MagicalNight #TheGreatestCombackEver *Scroll through!

A post shared by Linda Holliday✨ (@lindaholliday_) on

@bombsquad #family

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

#sundayze

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

That feeling when you see your Super Bowl ring.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

"I'm so Icyyyyy" – @laflare1017

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

A crazy/fun night to remember!! #Blessed

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

Last night was dope @tombrady . Tonight will be even better. #Celebrating6

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKtwejhhDB/?taken-by=realloganryan&hl=en

LEGENDARY NIGHT #2timechamp -Dmac

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

Wow–just a small sample of the night we all had!! #superbowlchamps #rings

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

2X W O R L D C H A M P I O N #PATSNATION

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

It was lit !!!!!'

A post shared by Dion Lewis (@d_lew33) on

2X

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Special teamer Nate Ebner shared his unique collection of hardware, both of his Super Bowl rings along with the one given to him by the United States Rugby Olympic team when he participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio last year.

LI… Rio 16'… XLIX

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

Long Snapper Joe Cardona sported his US Naval Academy graduation ring with his new bling.

https://twitter.com/zeus30hightower/status/873150240798461953

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKi_tpAWKZ/?taken-by=_boomtower

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLKu4nF-_0/?taken-by=iii_flowers

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLfRRlBeaW/?taken-by=sweetfeet_white28

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVKSZRMnT-B/?taken-by=vrvj99

"…Big rings, champagne…"

A post shared by Matt Lengel (@matthewlengel) on

https://twitter.com/EricRowe32/status/873300301650030594

Following the presentation of the rings, guests were treated to performances by rappers Snoop Dogg and Gucci Mane.

https://twitter.com/gucci1017/status/873580366505938944

https://twitter.com/SBNation/status/873537175605846016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sbnation.com%2Flookit%2F2017%2F6%2F10%2F15774972%2Fnfl-super-bowl-2017-patriots-ring-ceremony-gucci-mane-popeyes

All in all it was a very special night that officially closes the door on the 2016 Patriots season, as Quarterback Tom Brady would say the best ring is “The Next One”.

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Honor Memorial Day

Robert Alvarez
May 30, 2017 at 10:30 pm ET

On social media Monday, multiple members of the New England Patriots took time out of their Memorial Day holiday to pay their respects to the true Patriots that paid the ultimate price serving in the United States armed services.

Below are some of the best postings beginning with one by quarterback Tom Brady featuring a quote from President Ronald Regan.

"We are gathered at the National Cemetery, which provides a final resting place for the heroes who have defended our country since the Civil War. This amphitheater, this place for speeches, is more central to this cemetery than it first might seem apparent, for all we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did — and memories are transmitted through words. Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we're never quite good enough to them — not really; we can't be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it's a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember. It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember." – Ronald Reagan Thanks for the inspiration @domraso #Honor

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUrqLxog8Ds/?taken-by=gronk&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUsNF23BEHi/?taken-by=edelman11&hl=en

Happy Memorial Day!!! Thank you!! #memorialday #thankful

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

https://twitter.com/SweetFeet_White/status/869315556473745412

Best of Social Media: Patriots Visit The White House

Robert Alvarez
April 20, 2017 at 8:38 pm ET

For the third consecutive United States Presidency, the New England Patriots earned themselves a trip to the White House to be honored as Super Bowl champions.

Below are some of the best social media postings shared by both the team and players which provided a behind the scenes look at the days festivities.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTFJMTKFd11/?taken-by=gronk

My long lost friend @nink50 and I with a great view at the Capitol Building. #capitol #teammates

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTFiOscFnqJ/?taken-by=gronk

Missing our dog #dolamite but he was there in spirit. #onto2017 #letsgoooo

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/joecardona93/status/854837075291537409

Just chillin…..#whitehouse #theaterroom

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

TB, we left room for ya!

A post shared by Jacoby Brissett (@jbrissett7) on

 

Best of Social Media: Super Bowl LI Postgame and Championship Parade

Robert Alvarez
February 10, 2017 at 9:07 am ET

The instant New England Patriots running back James White crossed the goal line plane for the winning touchdown, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history was complete.

Facing a 25 point deficit, the Patriots never led until the final score. An unprecedented 31-0 run to end the game set off one of the wildest finishes in football history and a fifth Lombardi to One Patriot Place in Foxborough.

Below is a compilation of some of the best social media postings shared by the players, media, and fans during the celebration on the field and the parade in Boston two days later.

It takes a team. And so much love. #NeverStopBelieving

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

My everything

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQLRA8wjXBg/?taken-by=gisele&hl=en

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/828463124059738112

Catch me at the parade How Bout Dat

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

"If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!' If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ' Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And – which is more – you'll be a Man, my son!"

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Rain drop. Drop top. Benny dabbin on the boat with his Papa!

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQRCyqXDQv0/?taken-by=tombrady

"If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!' If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ' Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And – which is more – you'll be a Man, my son!"

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

#patsnation we love you!!!!! coming home with another one! #wegotsomereallybigrings

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

5 boston 5

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

Boston you are the #champions #gottabelieve

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

Best ever no questions asked! # 2 for me and # 5 for that guy!!

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

My brother @glenn_gronkowski and I super bowl champs together!!

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Tag team Gronk Bro's VS the Hype bro's! @mojorawleywwe @zryder85 #duckboat #champs #gronksquad #wwebelt

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Champs!! #GronkBro's #Gronkfitness #patriotsnation #parade

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

When you're a CHAMP!!!

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQL22r3A4vH/?taken-by=mccourtytwins&hl=en

Me: Tom we won the SUPER BOWL AGAIN…YEAAAAA Tom: LETS GOOOOOOO….Parade was epic!!!!! -Dmac

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

For Life I have my beautiful wife and TWO Super Bowl Championships!!! I am blessed!!! #wifeforlife #bymyside

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

World Champs!!!!!!! #itsneverover #patriots

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

Champs!!!!!!!

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

Never quit.

A post shared by Danny Amendola (@dannyamendola) on

A post shared by Sheard (@jabaalsheard) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQMLKsgAB0h/?taken-by=mac_bz&hl=en

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQNudTXjN47/?taken-by=dharm30

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQTKfhcDfT9/?taken-by=dharm30

2x World Champ

A post shared by Logan Ryan (@realloganryan) on

Champions….

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQKecO0hN4l/?taken-by=martellusb&hl=en

When your boy gets the baddest girl in the club phone number!! Swish.

A post shared by Martellus Bennett (@martellusb) on

Letsss gooooooo! Shoutout to everyone who came to the parade! #champs #sb51 #patsnation #doyourjob #parade

A post shared by Chris Hogan (@chrishogan_15) on

No better feeling!! 2x World Champs!! #GoPats

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQMPReMBErM/?taken-by=_boomtower

Reason for my being!

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

When you're happy so you just tackle people

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

We worked for every bit of this. Awesome time today with the boys #hulksmash #patsnation #fam

A post shared by Brandon Bolden (@bbhulksmash) on

We always the littest @sweetfeet_white28 @gronk @d_lew33 @martellusb

A post shared by LeGarrette Blount (@l_blount29) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQKuEV8DO-F/?taken-by=laflamablanca95

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQLhXkID_w3/?taken-by=laflamablanca95

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQNxhp2D6os/?taken-by=laflamablanca95

https://twitter.com/III_Flowers/status/828731813891813376

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQNwJFWjcIq/?taken-by=iii_flowers

Champs.

A post shared by Matt Lengel (@matthewlengel) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQO2J5BgziQ/?taken-by=lindaholliday_

Belichick SMILE ALERT!

NO DAYS OFF! NO DAYS OFF!

(Everyone in attendance took the day off)

Some current and former Boston athletes got in on the congratulations.

Curse broken?

Captain America was on the edge of his seat.

The greatest troll tweet of all time.

Just remember, always think before you tweet.

Roger That.

Best of Social Media Week 1: Patriots Vs. Cardinals

Robert Alvarez
September 12, 2016 at 8:52 am ET

Coming into Week 1 of the 2016 regular season, fans of the New England Patriots had mixed emotions going into their team’s prime time opener against another perennial Super Bowl contender in the Arizona Cardinals.

The team traveled without some of their best weapons and protection. Beginning at quarterback, Brady, out for the month on Deflategate suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo, unproven with zero career NFL starts was thrust under center in his place.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski was out with hamstring issues that prevented him from flying to Arizona along with two starting linemen in Jonathan Cooper and Nate Solder also unable to go in front of Garoppolo. Lastly, defensive captain Rob Ninkovich, also out with an injury and also suspended.

The result, a +9.5 point Las Vegas line that saw the Patriots have their largest underdog spread for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVI and fears of an embarrassment in the making out in the desert. While the team may have been confident, many fans and media were unsure of what to expect.

https://twitter.com/DougKyed/status/775008956221562880

Former Patriot Chandler Jones met with owner Robert Kraft during pregame warmups.

But before the game, both teams and fans took time to honor and remember the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

https://twitter.com/NateEbner/status/774992442890260481

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKOP6V8DaO9/?taken-by=edelman11&hl=en

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKN7cb3DkDG/

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty were all spotted before the game providing unique tributes of Patriotism.

The infamous Brady Banner was taken down as the first quarter was underway.

Martellus Bennett with a little self promotion for his children’s book company.

It didn’t take long for Garoppolo to find an early rhythm as he threw this precision pass to newcomer Chris Hogan for a Patriots early 7-0 lead.

Edelman laid some guys out.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/775134365290369024

Jimmy also completed a pass to himself.

https://twitter.com/Spark_Sports_/status/775156518702329856

With all the thoughts of doom and gloom coming into the night, the Patriots found themselves leading 10-7 at halftime.

With the third quarter underway, the Patriots drove to a 10 point cushion with 10 minutes to go in the third by way of LeGarrette Blount taking half the Cardinals defense into the end zone with him.

17-7.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/775156535622107136

Turnovers killed the Patriots early, 14 Cardinals points off of fumbles and it was back to a three point game following a David Johnson score. 17-14 Patriots.

The Garoppolo led Patriots were hanging tough, but future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald did all he could to keep his Cardinals in the game following this incredible 45 yard run by Johnson.

Career touchdown reception number 100, Fitzgerald’s second of the game which gave the Cardinals the fourth quarter lead at 21-20.

The kid out of Eastern Illinois didn’t back down, Garoppolo engineered a clutch drive of his own on the same stage Brady had just a few years earlier. Completing three third down plays, including a 3rd and 15 setting up a Stephen Gostkowski go ahead field goal with 3:44 to go in the game.  23-21 Patriots lead.

So it was up to the Patriots defense to secure the victory. Despite a few deep passes from Carson Palmer, the Cardinals were forced to set up a game winning 47 yard field goal attempt from Chandler Catanzaro.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/775176791266762754

Wide left.

Just like that, the upset was complete, New England Patriots 23, Arizona Cardinals 21.

Take it away, Tom Brady’s Facebook page.

Posted by Tom Brady on Sunday, September 11, 2016

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKPsNZxAAWr/?taken-by=lindaholliday_

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/775178885482676224