Punters as a whole are a position in the NFL that often do not get the recognition or appreciation which they deserve. They play a vital role in the success of their teams. One area of the game where the New England Patriots always seem to exceed league averages is at the punter position. The Pats have enjoyed a long run of success with Ryan Allen. After signing a one year extension to stay with the team through the 2019 season, Allen is facing competition at the position for a second straight season. The Patriots traded up in the 2019 NFL draft to take Stanford punter Jake Bailey in the fifth round. As a result, Allen may find himself on the outside of the roster bubble looking in.
Good Ol’ Reliable
After joining the team as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) in 2013, Allen earned a spot on the Patriots 53 man roster by beating out fellow left footer and veteran Zoltan Mesko for the punting duties. The addition of Allen placed him in a long line of left footed punters who came before him. In fact, during Belichick’s storied career in New England, he has never entered week one of the NFL Season with a right footed punter.
In an interview, the former Patriots leftie punter (Mesko) explains the value that a left footed punter can bring to the Patriots organization, particularly within the confines of Gillette Stadium. “That stadium is kind of made for lefties.” Mesko stated. He goes on to further explain how the wind pattern in Gillette is more beneficial for left footed punters than it is for those who use the opposite foot. The wind helps the distance of punts struck with the left foot while exacerbating any miscues made by the positions right footed counterparts.
Allen has seen success outside of Gillette stadium as well, and on the biggest stage of them all; Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots prevailed over the Los Angeles Rams in a surprisingly defensive dominated game. New England’s offensive struggles led to five punts from Allen. The combined 215 yards or 43 yards per punt average don’t necessarily tell the story of just how vital Allen was to the Patriots success. Three of Allen’s five punts came to rest inside the ten yard line which left the Rams a bit behind the eight ball offensively.
Exit Stage ‘Left’ ??
Allen and Bailey differ in more than just their kicking legs however. Where Allen has made his name in the league and on this roster as a precise and directional punter seemingly able to place the ball wherever he wishes on the field, Bailey has made a name as a boomer of the football with a cannon for a leg. Neither style is without its merits, however the fact that New England moved up in the draft to select Bailey indicates that they may be looking to make a change in style at the position.
After an impressive collegiate career at Stanford, Bailey looks to bring his leg talent to the next level. According to Pro Football Focus, Bailey’s longest punt in his collegiate career is 84 yards and he landed 37 of his 68 punts inside the 20 yard line during his senior season. The biggest hurdle that Bailey will need to overcome if he wants to find his way on to the 53 man roster of the Patriots and knock off the veteran in Allen is consistency. Teammate and reigning Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman when asked about Bailey said, “My guy has a boomer,” but also went on to say how he needed to become more consistent.
Belichick demands more precision and consistency on special teams than just about any other coach in the NFL and puts a high value on players who excel on that side of the ball such as Brandon Bolden, Matthew Slater, and Nate Ebner who play nearly exclusively on special teams. Even if Bailey has a bigger leg than Allen, this alone won’t be enough to unseat him from the roster.
The Patriots organization signed Allen to a one year contract in lieu of a longer term deal, they added left footer Corey Bojorquez last offseason to compete at the position as an UDFA, and they invested draft capital in Bailey this offseason. All of these signs point to one thing; Ryan Allen is fighting for his spot on this roster and while he prevailed last season, can he do it again this year?
-Adam Myers is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @AdamTMyers