Bubble Watch: Niko Koutouvides

(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)

NAME: Niko Koutouvides

POSITION: Linebacker

AGE: 31

2011 STATS: 8 games (1 start), 8 defensive tackles, 9 special teams tackles -- signed on Nov. 9

INJURY STATUS: No known injuries


WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: While he did not make the 53-man roster out of training camp, Koutouvides returned to the team midseason, providing a boost on special teams. An experienced special teams player, Koutouvides could be a "core four" player with a strong performance this preseason.

WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: Koutouvides, the oldest of the Patriots' core special teams players, faces stiff competition for a role on special teams. While he made a start against a winless Colts team last December, Koutouvides offers less on defense than his closest competition, linebackers Tracy White and Jeff Tarpinian. Fullback Spencer Larsen and safeties Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown are also among players who will be clawing for roster spots this August based on their contributions on special teams. It's a battle that Koutouvides can win, but one that he did not win last preseason.

CLOSEST COMPETITION: LB Tracy White, LB Jeff Tarpinian, FB Spencer Larsen