Each week leading up to the draft, the Foxboro Blog crew will spend a week breaking down a position on the Patriots' roster. We'll start with a quick overview and then move onto a discussion involving potential draftees at that spot as well as free-agents that the Patriots may pursue. Up this week are the specialists...
2010 Recap: The Patriots selected the first punter taken in the NFL draft when they spent a fifth round pick on Zoltan Mesko. In his first season, Zoltan stood out for more than just his cool name. During overtime in the Patriots' Week 6 thriller versus Baltimore, Mesko booted a 65-yard punt with the Patriots pinned on their own 16 yard line. In what seemed to be a disasterous field position situation, Zoltan's deep bomb kept the Patriots alive and opened the door for them to ultimately win the game. Dan Connolly's kick-off return against Green Bay will likely go down as the season's most memorable special teams play, but for me, Mesko's big punt was the most important. It not only redeemed the team from 2009's embarrassing playoff loss, but it put a stamp on the young 2010 Patriots squad as legitimate contenders
As far as the kicking game goes, Stephen Gostkowski performed up to his usual admirable standard during the first half of the season, but was lost for the year when he injured his right quad against Cleveland in Week 9. The Patriots scrambled for a replacement and came up with Bengals cast-off Shayne Graham. Graham was actually the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, but a two-miss performance in the '09 playoffs had him packing his bags. After a career in Cincinnati which featured few playoff games, many wondered if Graham would buckle under the pressure once the pressure-filled post-season. However, he performed admirably, nailing both of his field goals against the Jets, and went a perfect 12 for 12 on the season.
Returning Players: Stephen Gostkowski, Matt Katula, Zoltan Mesko
Patriots Free-Agents: None
2011 Outlook: The big question heading into next season is the health of Stephen Gostkowski. By all accounts, he is recovering well from his injury and should be ready to go. That's good news for the Patriots as Gostkowski's strong leg should prove very beneficial with the new kickoff rules. The Ghost was already a touchback machine, and with kickoffs being moved up five yards we should expect even more teams to be pinned back in the end zone. If Zoltan Mesko continues to develop, the combo of him and Gostkowski should prove to be a powerful duo that should keep the Patriots on the winning end of the field position battle.