We’re in the post-Brady era. The New England Patriots have a new young quarterback in Jarrett Stidham. To many fans in New England this will be uncharted territory without TB12 on the team. Bill Belichick still has the necessary tools to be successful for the upcoming season. And what may be overlooked is the Special Teams on the Patriots.
With a young and inexperienced quarterback, the Patriots will look at other areas for help. There’s no question the defense is elite. But the Special teams has it’s own array of guys that can impact a game. I’m sure Belichick will stress the point of field position and pinning teams near their end zone. Punter Jake Bailey and rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser will have added pressure on them to perform.
Also you can’t forget the all-pro special teams gunner Matthew Slater. The 34-year-old has been an 8x pro bowler for what he’s been able to do on special teams. Slater has 637 total return yards, 155 tackles, and one forced fumble in his career. Slater has grown accustomed to racing down the field to stop the ball from being a touchback. The offense has taken a step back, so Slater will be more of a key to making sure opponents start with tough field position.
With as good as a defense the Patriots will have, it may grant the offense with good field position. But on the other side, the Pats have a young quarterback behind the center. With that mixture I expect to see a lot of fourth downs around the 40 yard line, leaving the special teams to make a play. Whether a field goal attempt or a punt. The defense can only carry a team so far.
If the Stidham’s offense can’t put touchdowns on the board, expect a lot more field goals. Once the trust is gained in the Rohrwasser I can see Belichick taking more chances on the special teams side of the ball. That may even a be one or two more onside kicks next season just to get something going.
It’s no secret Belichick started his NFL coaching career in the special teams department. He knows the ins and out in that aspect. One can look at Brian Flores, the head coach of the Dolphins, who was a former special teams coach under Belichick. That should show just how special the special teams in New England is.
When we think back to the early days of Tom Brady’s career we may think about the defense. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ty Law and more were important. Some may think back to the last minute drives by Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. However, I think back to all of the clutch kicking by future hall of fame Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Without those special kickers on the team, who knows where the Patriots dynasty ends up.
With a questionable offense at the helm, expect the special teams to play a larger role.