When you think of the Patriots, the names that come to mind are guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski which isn’t bad. Those are the guys you always see making the big plays and the most polarizing players in the league. The one side of the ball the Patriots never ignore or leave holes in is special teams. You may not even know who the guys on that unit are. The most notable is Cyrus Jones who made a name for himself fumbling on special teams and being incompetent on the punt return team. Outside of Cyrus Jones, the Patriots have the best special teams unit in the league.
Brandon King, Jonathan Jones, and Joe Cardona are the names you never hear called on game day, but they are always making plays. It is because these three players play about 90% of their snaps on special teams. In fact, King and Cardona played all their snaps on special teams this season. Jones occasionally gets in on defense packages.
The Patriots gave Jones the most guaranteed money this past off season among UDFAs, $35,000. Jones and King each received three year deals worth about $1.6M each in the the past two offseasons (both of these players were UDFAs). King played 67% of all special teams snaps, Jones 68%. Barkevious Mingo is another special teamer he played 72% of special team snaps.
Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner are the most well known of this group of special teamers. Slater goes to the Pro Bowl every year it seems and Ebner went to the Olympics for Rugby. Both of them play almost all of their snaps on special teams, only playing in desperate situations on offense or defense. Ebner make $2M annually while Slater is going to make $1.8M this season.
Geneo Grissom and Brandon Bolden are two other players on the roster who are buried in their position on the depth chart, but have carved out major roles on special teams, both playing over 50% of the total special team snaps.
Their long snapper? Belichick spent a fifth round pick on him, Joe Cardona from the Naval Academy. Cardona could end up leaving to serve in the Navy and miss more than a season but that didn’t stop Bill from using a fifth on him.
It is crazy to think that a team uses ten roster spots for the soul purpose of special teams. That is what Bill does, his attention to detail. Not allowing a single return touchdown is impressive, that comes from his attention to detail.
The return units never allow a big gain. Slater and Jonathan Jones are always down there before any real damage is done.
The special teams unit has always been close to Bill’s heart and it is very clear that that is the case this year.