New England Patriots should have a strong special teams unit

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Cassius Marsh
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07: Cassius Marsh /

The New England Patriots 53-man roster is set, and they should be extremely strong on special teams after a number of low-risk moves in the last few days.

When you look at the construction of the New England Patriots initial 53-man roster, it’s clear that there is an emphasis on versatility. Linebackers need to be versatile to play the edge, the fullback can play tight end, and almost everyone can play special teams.

The Patriots bolstered their special teams unit over the last few days with a number of trades and roster moves.

First, New England traded for linebacker Marquis Flowers. They sent a 2018 7th round pick to the Bengals in the move. Flowers had been a key member of the Cincinnati special teams unit and he should be able to excel here in New England.

Next came the trade for defensive back Johnson Bademosi for a 2019 6th round pick. Bademosi had been the Cleveland Browns special teams ace prior to signing with Detroit last offseason. Now in New England, he should find his groove as a gunner in the kicking game.

The Patriots then traded for defensive end Cassius Marsh. They sent corner Justin Coleman to Seattle in the deal, along with a 2018 5th round pick. Marsh was a core special teams player for the Seahawks, but New England could be looking to use him even more in the edge rotation. He’s appeared in 37 regular season games in his career and he has 40 tackles, 3 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. At just 25, Marsh could even have more room to improve.

New England also acquired wide receiver Phillip Dorsett from the Colts for third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Coming off a strong preseason game, the Patriots traded Brissett when his value was high, and the Colts certainly bought the hype. Here’s what they said in their press release.

"The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Brissett, 24, is coming off perhaps one of the greatest preseason performances by a quarterback in NFL history on Thursday, as he completed 28-of-39 passes for 341 yards with four touchdowns and an interception — adding a rushing touchdown, as well — in the Patriots’ 40-38 loss to the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium."

Jacoby played well but, WOW.

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On the other hand, the Patriots absolutely won this trade as they get a young wideout with 3 seasons left on his contract. Dorsett will primarily be an offensive target for Tom Brady, but he could become valuable in the return game as well with Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones both out for the season. Dorsett is as quick as Brandin Cooks, and that speed can become a huge factor in the open field. New England Patriots fans shouldn’t be surprised if he’s back returning a few punts.

All of these new additions join an already strong core of special teamers in New England. Of course, the unit has kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, and long snapper Joe Cardona, but the leader of the unit is Matthew Slater. He is a perennial special teams pro bowler, and he takes pride in leading the unit. Brandon King and Nate Ebner are also key members on special teams. Rookies Jacob Hollister and  Harvey Langi should get in on that team as well.

The Patriots released Brandon Bolden as they trimmed the roster to 53, but most expect him to be back at some point soon.

New England clearly has a focus on special teams, and it’s no surprise given how much head coach Bill Belichick enjoys and praises that facet of the game. While many fans are focused on offense and defense, Belichick knows that a game can be won or lost in the third phase.

Next: 5 things we love about Rob Gronkowski

We’ll get our first look at this New England Patriots special teams unit on Thursday night when they open the NFL season against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Until then, make sure you’re checking back in at Chowder and Champions for game previews, analysis, and news leading up to the start of the 2017 season.