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Training Camp Positional Snapshot: Specialists

In the lead-up to 2023 training camp, we’re inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the specialists.

Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18).
Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18).

ANALYSIS

It will be an interesting summer on the practice fields for the special teams, as a rookie kicker and punter enter the fray against two veterans, while the team looks to boost their coverage units after a down year.

Let's start with the kicker situation where Nick Folk has seen an incredible run of stellar performance arrive in his late-30's. Folk hasn't missed inside 40 yards in four seasons with the team, and is 9-of-13 from 50-plus. At 38, Folk's remaining time in tenuous and he won't be a primary kickoff man anymore, but his consistency has been superlative and that's why he won't be easily dethroned by rookie fourth-rounder Chad Ryland. Both looked solid in OTAs, setting up what should be some fun end-of-practice competitions between them.

Similarly, Corliss Waitman is an NFL veteran who was Denver's punter last year and showcased an NFL punting leg during the spring. Rookie sixth-round pick Bryce Baringer will look to unseat Waitman with a combination of consistency and hang time, but there's a steep learning curve that Baringer will have to master to win the job.

The two rookies should be considered the favorites but the jobs will not be handed to them without solid summer performances.

Matthew Slater returns to once again captain the team and special teams especially, but there will be a number of intriguing position battles on special teams featuring a number of rookies and veterans. Chris Board should be a core contributor, but competition between last year's rookie ST'ers like Damarcus Mitchell, Raleigh Webb and Brendan Schooler, veterans like Cody Davis and rookies like Ameer Speed, Isaiah Bolden and Jourdan Heilig, should be really stiff.

After finishing 32nd in DVOA in 2022, the Patriots special teams are due for a makeover and while these aren't the roster battles that get the biggest headlines, they might be among the most intense on the roster this summer.

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