FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots will hold their first public training camp practice on July 27. As part of the lead-up to camp, I'll spotlight one position each day to highlight the team's personnel and some of the storylines of note.
We covered wide receivers, offensive linemen, running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks last week before moving on to the defense this week, with linebackers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, cornerbacks and safeties.
Today, we conclude with specialists:
Roster locks: Gostkowski, Allen, Cardona
Gostkowski's point-after attempts dip: Gostkowski, the Patriots' kicker since 2006, was 46-of-49 on point-after attempts during the regular season, and missed two PATs in the playoffs (one coming in Super Bowl LI). With the PAT now a 33-yard attempt, it's become a more competitive play across the NFL, as Bill Belichick hoped it would. Can Gostkowski limit his PAT misses in 2017? He was 27-of-32 on field-goal attempts during the regular season, and 7-of-7 in the playoffs. Outside of having kicker Josh Gable in for a tryout during rookie minicamp, the Patriots haven't shown any indication they plan to bring in another kicker to work alongside and potentially challenge Gostkowski.
Kickoffs help Patriots win field-position game: When analyzing a kicker's value to a team, it falls short to focus solely on PATs and field goals, as kickoffs play a significant part in helping a club win the field-position game. There isn't a better example than what unfolded in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI, as Gostkowski's knack for being able to place high-arcing kickoffs close to the goal-line -- coupled with excellent work from the coverage unit -- played an important part in the team's comeback win.
Allen continues to improve: Allen, the left-footed punter who enters his fifth season as the team's punter, is still growing into the role. He was striking the ball well in spring practices and excels in situational punting as evidenced by his low total of touchbacks over the last three seasons (6, 3, 5). His 41.4 net average last season was the best of his career (previous best 39.9).
Stat check: Cardona, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, has played in every game over his first two seasons. He is the third Navy alum drafted by the Patriots, joining Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino (1961) and offensive lineman Max Lane (1994).
Quote of note: "Nobody works harder than Steve. Steve's a very talented player. He's mentally tough." -- Bill Belichick, on Gostkowski, in October of 2016