Things could have been disastrous for New England when the team was forced to make mid-season changes to two-thirds of their specialist roster.
But the players who were brought in – Shayne Grahamand Matt Katula– performed more than adequately and prevented the Patriots from missing a beat on special teams.
There's always a chance they'll bring in some competition to push the incumbents, but the team appears set at every spot heading into 2011.
THE SPECIALISTS ROSTER
(Players listed alphabetically, as of February 2011, with individual analysis below)
3 – Stephen Gostkowski – KNot long after signing a lucrative contract extension, the All-Pro kicker tore the quadriceps muscle in his right (kicking) leg and went on injured reserve. Once he's fully healthy, he'll regain his job, but it will be interesting to see how the injury affects his leg strength.
5 – Shayne Graham – KWhen Gostkowski was sidelined mid-season, the veteran Graham came in and nailed all 12 of his field goal attempts. His kickoffs were noticeably shorter than Gostkowski's, on average, but assuming Gostkowski is back to full strength, Graham will be out of work in New England. But not out of work completely. He'll likely find a job somewhere else in the NFL this season.
48 – Matt Katula – LS
Another mid-season replacement who save the Patriots from the erratic snaps of Jake Ingram. Katula was a fixture in Baltimore for several years and did nothing to hurt himself in his abbreviated stint with the Patriots. He'll probably stick around for the foreseeable future.
14 – Zoltan Mesko – P
The rookie struggled early with consistency, but became more comfortable as the year wore on. The team obviously believed in him from the get-go, deciding not to bring any competition in during training camp. That should be the same this summer. Mesko has shown both a strong leg, when needed, and the soft touch to place punts inside the 20. He'll be the Patriots punter for years to come, if he remains as good as he was in the latter stages of the season.
Up next in the Position Snapshot series: quarterback, coming Monday, Feb 14. Tomorrow on patriots.com, an all-new Debate Friday.