Patriots not afraid to invest in ‘Teams’


Yesterday’s news that the Patriots have locked up kicker Stephen Gostkowski is another example of the importance the team has put on special teams over the last year-plus.

Running through other rosters across the league, it’s pretty incredible looking at New England by comparison in that area of late.

In the winter of 2009, New England brought Scott O’Brien in to coach the special teams and, after long-time long-snapper Lonie Paxton bolted for Denver, the team spent a sixth-round pick to replace him with Jake Ingram. This year, the team spent a fifth-round pick on punter Zoltan Mesko. Gostkowski, of course, was a fourth-round pick himself.

That means the Patriots have spent draft picks on each of the three specialist spots over the last five years, and it makes them the only team in the NFL to have all three of those positions filled by homegrown draftees. In fact, the team the Patriots face tonight, St. Louis, is the only other one in the NFL to have a kicker, punter and long-snapper that all entered the NFL as draftees, with kicker Josh Brown and punter Donnie Jones having come in as veterans after being drafted elsewhere.

The Patriots have also used draft picks to take guys like Matthew Slater, someone who really is a full-time special teamer.

The trouble is the Patriots special teams were just OK last year, and that’s probably a reason why the team continues to invest in that area. With some of the big returns through two weeks of the preseason, there’s some reason for optimism, and you’d have to think this is one area where Bill Belichick and Co. expect a big jump.


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