|Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets|
Our position-by-position Patriots preview continues with special teams. The Patriots have been blessed with little turnover over the last few years at special teams, and there have been no significant personnel changes this offseason. So, without further ado, let’s reintroduce you to some familiar faces at special teams.
Bill Belichick has stayed the course with Gostkowski since drafting the him in the fourth round in 2006, despite accuracy problems in his rookie season, a season ending injury in 2010, and the cheapening of the position due to kickoffs being moved up to the 35-yard-line last year. The faith paid off, as the Memphis product posted his highest accuracy rate since his 2008 Pro-Bowl campaign in his first year back from a torn quadriceps. Gostkowski is signed through 2014, and the starting kicker spot appears to be in good hands.
The U-Mass product signed with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie last training camp, but was cut at the end of preseason. Koepplin again signed with the Patriots last month, and is a candidate for a spot on the practice squad.
Mesko showed no signs of a sophomore slump last season, upping his average yard per punt from 43.2 to 46.5. The Michigan graduate is entering the second-to-last season of his contract, so another solid campaign should get Coach Belichick to sign him to an extension.
There aren’t any statistics for long snappers, but from what I saw on TV, Aiken’s snaps were a significant improvement over those from Mike Katula and Jake Ingram before him. He is entering his second season, and has no competition in training camp.
The position previews continue on Monday with corners and safeties.