Marquice Cole: Was signed in the offseason to be a special teamer and spot cornerback, and filled those roles admirably. A solid all-around player who had an impossible matchup vs. Anquan Boldin in AFC Championship game after Talib went out. Grade: C-minus.
Nate Ebner: A draft project after being mostly a rugby player at Ohio State, he developed into a very good special teams weapon who finished second with 17 tackles. Needs a lot of work at safety. Grade: C-minus.
Derrick Martin: Solid depth player in the secondary and on special teams. Grade: D.
Patrick Chung: A physical safety on a team desperately in need of one, Chung was effectively benched for the season despite a few spot starts. Looked slower and appeared to guess more than ever. Injury-plagued the past three seasons, this one was likely his last in New England. Grade: D-minus.
Malcolm Williams: A 2011 seventh-round pick, Williams has been released and signed several times as a special teams player. Grade: D-minus.
Ras-I Dowling: The 33d overall pick in the 2011 draft was supposed to be an immediate starter as a tall and physical man cover corner. He has shown flashes of that talent, but his career totals are nine games, two starts, and two injured reserve appearances. Grade: F.
Will Allen: Veteran free agent signing went on injured reserve before the season. Grade: Incomplete.
Josh Barrett: Has played five games the past three seasons and is coming back from microfracture knee surgery as a free agent. Grade: Incomplete.
Zoltan Mesko: Appeared set to make a run at a Pro Bowl spot but both his average (43.1) and net average (37.9) decreased from a season ago. Those numbers are more indicative of punting for a standout offense than a poor job on his part, but Mesko could stand to be more consistent, especially in pressure situations. Grade: B.
Danny Aiken: After an inconsistent training camp and preseason, the long snapper had a very good season. Grade: B.
Stephen Gostkowski: His 82.9 field goal percentage was his lowest in a full season since his rookie year of 2006 (76.9 percent) and he missed a game-winning attempt from 42 yards against the Cardinals. At one point, he made one of four kicks in Weeks 11-14. Posted a career-high 46.8 touchback percentage on kickoffs. Grade: C-plus.