When it comes to special teams, the Patriots haven’t always been among the league’s elite.
Last year, there were definite improvements.
According to Rick Gosselin’s rankings (Dallas Morning News), the Patriots finished first in special teams prowess.
Football Outsiders’ rating system had the Patriots eighth overall.
One of the primary reasons for the jump in special teams rankings was the emergence of Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman in the return game.
While Tate was inconsistent at receiver, he ranked sixth in kick return average (25.8 yards) and scored two touchdowns.
Edelman also stood out in the return game, ranking only behind return man extraordinaire Devin Hester with a 15.3-yard average on punt returns.
Despite the loss of Pro Bowler Stephen Gostowski, the kicking game was still solid, especially when it came to rookie punter Zoltan Mesko.
The giant Michigan alum ranked 11th in net punt average, and proved his booming leg was well worth a fifth-round pick.
The team also improved on its coverage and boasts quality depth to fill out those units.
Overall, the Patriots feature two top returners and young kickers who round out a top-five special teams unit.
State of the Position Grade: A