The special teams have fallen off in recent years based on DVOA. After dropping outside the top 10 just once from 2006-20117 (12th in 2009) , the Pats special teams ranked 16th in 2018 and are currently ranked 17th, their lowest spot since Bill Belichick took over the team.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Field Goal/Extra Point – 32nd
- Kickoffs – 13th
- Kickoff Returns – 16th
- Punt – 1st
- Punt Return – 7th
The obvious key? The kicker position, where Stephen Gostkowski dealt with a hip injury early in the season before ending up on IR and opening the door to Mike Nugent and now Nick Folk. It’s the first time since the early 1980’s that the team has had to resort to three different kickers.
Jake Bailey has been a bright spot, leading the league in punt efficiency, while also keeping the team above average in kickoffs. Fellow rookie and primary punt returner Gunner Olszewski has also been solid.
Kickoff returner Brandon Bolden has been averaging 22.7 yards-per-return, keeping the Pats right around the league average while being called on to return just 10 kicks thanks to the defense. Last year’s returner Cordarrelle Patterson is averaging over 30 yards-per-return with the Bears for comparison.
Kicker will continue to be a question mark the rest of the season and is an early defining trait for the team. Hopefully it’s not one that costs them an important game.