In the lead-up to 2022 Training Camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the specialists.
Analysis: Jake Bailey was back to his usual booming punt ways in OTAs, underlining an unhealthy 2021 season that he looks fully recovered from. A return to his Pro Bowl punting habits would be beneficial for a defense that will be feeling some new pieces out. Rookie UDFA Jake Julien will help limit Bailey's reps.
Nick Folk signed a two-year deal after two-and-a-half strong, consistent years with the Patriots that have rejuvenated his career. But he'll have competition from free agent Tristan Vizcaino, who earned a contract after trying out during the spring. Long snapper Joe Cardona is back as well for his eighth season.
The dynamic special teams duo Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel also return, providing leadership and experience in the game's third phase. The two gunners are among the best in the game at getting down the field and clearly the Patriots value their presence.
As long as Folk maintains his level of play from the last two seasons, there's little reason to think the Patriots special teams won't again be among the best in the league. If fully healthy, Bailey should again be a game-changer, but overall, getting more game-changing plays from the return units, ones that seemed to dry up in 2021, should be a priority.