Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Specialists
A special group
By Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry
This is the eleventh in a series of position-by-position looks at the Patriots by Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry as we head into the offseason. Today's position: Specialists
Stephen Gostkowski, 32, under contract through 2018
Ryan Allen, 25, 2018
Joe Cardona, 23, 2018
Gostkowski’s been the best kicker in the NFL over the past five seasons and it’s a cruel twist that – when he finally seemed to gain a level of appreciation in New England commensurate with his performance – he shanked an extra point for the first time in a decade. In the AFC Championship Game. Will that affect him going forward? In 2013, while on a hot streak, he told me, “It’s easy to do good when you’re doing good. If you have a bad kick or a bad game or whatever, you need to fall back on your confidence. It’s easy when it’s going good but you can get humbled quick. It’s tough to be good in this league and tough to be good consistently.”
He’s signed through 2018 so, while the memory of that PAT miss isn’t going to go away soon, Gostkowski has plenty of time to bury it under better performances. As for Allen, he had some really outstanding games. The Patriots don’t treat their punting game like a long drive contest. There’s a lot of directional punting and strategy devoted to it and Allen – who’s kind of a punting nerd and loves that type of thing – is the perfect guy for it. He’s a very good athlete, does the job well and is also signed through 2018. The long-snapper, Cardona, was solid as a rookie. He better be since teams don’t normally spend draft picks on long snappers. Over the course of his career, Cardona needs to be Greg Maddux in terms of control. He’s off to a good start.
Stephen Gostkowski didn't end 2015 the way he would've liked, missing his first extra point since his rookie season in the AFC title game, but he'll enter 2016 as arguably the game's best kicker. He hit on 91.7 percent of his field goals last year, including 4-for-5 from 50 yards or longer. He was perfect (17-for-17) on his tries from between 20 and 40 yards away. He was also tied for the league lead in touchbacks with 69. To do what he does and where he does it, playing half of his games outdoors in Foxboro, makes him one of the game's best, and he's shown little sign of slowing down after signing a new deal with the team last offseason. Ryan Allen has continued to be more than serviceable as the team's left-footed punter. While he may not get the most consistent workload playing with one of the game's best offenses and one of its most aggressive coaches, he's benefited them in the all-important game of field position, ranking in the top half of the league in net yardage last year (14th with 40.4 per punt), and there were only five punters in the league who pinned their opponents inside the 20-yard line more than Allen. Rookie snapper Joe Cardona handled the pro game well in his first season, adapting to some of the blocking duties required in the NFL that aren't part of the job description in college. Cardona snapped accurately and managed everything the team required of him all while still serving as an active member of the Navy. He was able to balance his job as a snapper with his role as a mentor to students at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, RI, which clearly earned him the respect of his coaching staff and his teammates.