With Matthew Slater, Jake Bailey and Stephon Gilmore being named to the Pro Bowl on Monday evening, Bill Belichick was asked about the work of the two specialists and their contributions on Tuesday morning in what was the only media availability of the day.
With the top-ranked special teams units in the league per Football Outsiders, the third phase of the game has been a critical element for the Patriots this season. At the top of the list is Matthew Slater, who has been named to nine of the last 10 Pro Bowls and continues to perform at a level that puts him among the best of all time to ever do it.
"I can't think of anybody that's done more than [Slater] has and that he's done it over a very consistent period of time at an extremely high level, in addition to all the other qualities that he brings off the field – leadership, just doing the right thing, just the person and the human being that he is," said Belichick. "But, his competitiveness on the field, he's a great teammate – just outstanding in all areas."
On the other end of the spectrum from the well-established veteran is Jake Bailey, making his first Pro Bowl in his second season. Bailey is fourth in punt average, fifth in punts downed inside the 20 and has a 71-yard punt to his name this year, the second-longest in the entire league, while also handling kickoffs.
"[Jake]'s had an outstanding season," said Belichick. "He does a great job of really everything – kickoffs, holding, been part of Nick's [Folk] consistency, as well – and of course his punting. He's got the big leg and the ability to change field position, but also situational punting like he had in the Miami game. The kickoff, the punt – I mean, he does a lot of little things that are really, really important to the success of our special teams units and he's had an outstanding year. The punting is obvious, but there's a lot of other little things too that he does a great job of."
Unfortunately, it appears the Patriots will be without the services of their third Pro Bowler for the rest of the season after Stephon Gilmore was reportedly undergoing surgery today to repair a torn quad.
Earlier this month, Belichick praised Gilmore's work this season and his ability to play however he needs to.
"He's a smart player," said Belichick of Gilmore. "He works extremely hard. He can play physical and force the run and cover some of the quicker receivers and also cover the bigger guys and vertical guys. So, he can match up against just about everybody. And again, he has good preparation, good communication and good ball skills and has done a good job of tackling for us."
It hasn't been a season to remember for the Patriots, but this trio of players have, along with a few others, turned in some outstanding performances that are deserving of the recognition.
|Stats||Patriots (6-8)||Bills (11-3)|
|Offensive Points||27th (20.6)||5th (29.1)|
|Offensive Third Down||19th (40.7%)||1st (50.9%)|
|Offensive Red Zone||29th (51.1%)||23rd (57.6%)|
|Offensive Passing DVOA||29th||4th|
|Offensive Rushing DVOA||7th||21st|
|Turnover Ratio||15th (+1)||13th (+2)|
|Defensive Third Down||18th (41.5%)||19th (41.8%)|
|Defensive Red Zone||22nd (64.3%)||23rd (64.8%)|
|Defensive Passing DVOA||16th||15th|
|Defensive Rushing DVOA||32nd||18th|
|Special Teams DVOA||1st||5th|