As the Patriots enjoy their much-needed bye week, let’s analyze an underperforming specialist and see how he can improve.
As a specialist, having a good punter is one of the most critical units a good football team needs. Ultimately, the punter determines where the defense begins its drive, influencing the defensive positioning and deciding the game’s outcome.
In football, the struggle for field position significantly affects a team’s prospects of accumulating more points. In terms of math, an offense will have a lower chance of succeeding in scoring a touchdown the further they are required to go. While other elements, like mistakes or a great kick return, play a part in this, the punter is crucial in making the opposing offense fight for every scoring opportunity throughout a game.
Every tiny detail of a punter’s work, including hang time, accuracy, and touch, allows the coverage team to fend off opponents deep. A punter’s contribution won’t get any recognition, resulting in a high-scoring shooting or a low-scoring duel.
No doubt, a punter’s job may impact a game statistically or in terms of momentum, regardless of how you view it. However, an analytics junkie and a casual viewer may disagree on whether “momentum” is fundamental in a game. A solid punt can be the difference between the defense entering the field confidently and at ease or on edge as the offense enters the area already in the defensive zone.
Where the opposition offense sets up shop is decided by punters. A strong punt can strand the opposing offense far within their zone. Every time a punter enters the field on fourth down, gaining field position is crucial. Before the long snapper releases the ball, everything must be done for a punt to be as effective as possible. An errant snap or lackluster blocking can prove harsh effects on the punt unit, ultimately affecting the game’s outcome.
When the game is on the line, and that one play could determine the result of the match, kickers and punters have their numbers called. But, unfortunately, people quickly forget their victories and wait for a punter to mishandle a downfield kick or a kicker to miss a field goal.
Punters and kickers in the NFL are given the least respect of any position and receive the most inconsistent support. Longtime punter Dustin Colquitt has parted ways with the Kansas City Chiefs. According to stats, he played in a franchise-record number of Chiefs games in 2019. He has established himself as one of the league’s most reliable punters annually.
Football would be entirely different without specialists like kickers and punters. These players determine scores and field positions. So it would help if you didn’t disregard them because they have essential roles in the locker room and area, and the Patriots certainly don’t disregard any special teams position.
Patriots Punter Jake Bailey
Following a disastrous 2021 campaign, which was statistically the worst in New England under coach Bill Belichick, the Patriot’s special teams unit has made strides in several crucial areas.
Through nine weeks, there have been several highlights for the Patriot’s special teams, including cornerback Jonathan Jones stopping a punt against Indianapolis and rookie Jack Jones intercepting a Greg Zuerlein field goal attempt for the Jets.
The big query, however, is still: What’s wrong with Patriots punter Jake Bailey?
Bailey regressed last season following an All-Pro campaign in 2020 when he recorded the NFL’s top net punting average (45.6 yards) and the second-most punts inside the 20-yard line (31). Given that Bailey frequently participated in practice with a limited capacity due to a persistent right knee ailment, an injury could cause the decline.
However, Bailey is still having a difficult season and has not yet appeared on the injury report. He has fumbled several punts for the Patriots, including a dreadful 7-yarder against Indianapolis that may have gone unnoticed in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
Bailey presently has the worst net punting average in the league (35.3 yards). His five touchbacks, which already match his total from the 2020 season, tie him for second-most. His punts have landed inside the 20 only 12 times out of 37 attempts (32.4 percent). The 28.8-yard line is where opponents of the Patriots often start their field position.
Bailey has yet to improve from what we’ve seen of him before, but Patriots fans should remain optimistic that this version of Bailey is not permanent. Unfortunately, this kind of slump often happens in the league, usually due to a lack of confidence or injury.
We’ve seen Jake perform as the best punter in the NFL previously, and I’m confident that his spectacular ability will return after the bye week. The Patriots will benefit tremendous as a result.
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