NEN XTRA: Discipline and execution – the tale of special teams


For the entirety of the New England dynasty, there are three things you can count on—discipline, fundamentals, and execution.

A lot of times those attributes show the most, not on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, but on this thing called special teams. Special teams is the most overlooked aspect of the game of football, yet it’s arguably the most important.

Special teams is more than just pinning the other team deep on the other end or kicking the long game-winning field goals—there’s a lot of little details that go into it. And quite honestly it can win or lose games.

Discipline and execution are what define the Patriots culture and a lot of that comes from special teams which can be so crucial at times. With a Bill Belichick team, you can count on that being some of their best football even though some people can’t see it that way.

In 2020, leadership in special teams situations will be key because not only do you have a quarterback change on offense, but you have a complete turnover on the roster on the defensive side of the ball—add a change in the special teams coordinator to that equation. Things are going to look different on the field for this team.

Luckily, veteran captain, Matthew Slater will be back again this year—a special teams legend in New England. He will be the voice of that unit under new special teams coordinator, Cameron Achord. Achord takes over after being the assistant coordinator to Joe Judge, who left to take on the head coaching role in New York.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 09: Joe Judge talks to the media after he was introduced as the new head coach of the New York Giants during a news conference at MetLife Stadium on January 9, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

This team will also be without kick returner and reserve running back, Brandon Bolden—another hole to fill.

The biggest question of them all will be: how will the kicking game go?

This season will be the first time since 2006 that New England will enter the season without all-time leading scorer, Stephen Gostowski kicking field goals through the uprights. Gostowski was placed on the injured-reserve list after week four of last season, in need of hip surgery. He remains on that list next to fullback, James Develin and there has been no word on if he will return.

HOUSTON, TX – DECEMBER 01: Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots kicks a 53 yard field goal during the second half of the game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Open the door for a rookie kicker—which always seems questionable.

Justin Rohrwasser was New England’s 5th round pick in 2020 and looks to be the lead man entering that role. He joins another young guy in the kicking department—second year punter, Jake Bailey. Bailey did look good last season as a rookie, but two young guys having all the power in their foot to determine the outcome of some games can be concerning.

It’ll be imperative for this New England special teams unit to come together and sustain that discipline and execution. No matter how you see it, special teams is important. It could ultimately decide whether this team has a subpar year or wins another AFC East title and gets a home playoff game again.

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