We have entered the quietest parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until next week and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at wide receiver and core special teamer Matthew Slater.
Name: Matthew Slater
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 18
Size: 6'0, 205 lbs.
2015 review: Matthew Slater, listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart, played only 1.7% of the Patriots' offensive snaps in 2015. He did not register any stats and was the target of only one of Tom Brady's 624 pass attempts. And that's perfectly okay.
Slater, of course, is not on New England's roster to be a pass catcher. He is a special teamer – and he's one of the best in the game. Despite battling injuries in 2015, the 30-year old appeared in all 18 of his team's games, played 63.6% of the Patriots' special teams snaps and finished the season with a team-high 16 tackles.
As a result of his stellar play, Slater was voted to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl. He was also voted a team captain for the fifth consecutive year – showing that his value goes beyond his performance on the gridiron and into the team's locker room (as exemplified by him leading the Patriots' weekly post-game huddle).
2016 preview: Matthew Slater, listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart, projects to play only a handful of the Patriots' offensive snaps in 2016. Unless injuries force the team to use him on offense as well, he likely will not register any stats in that phase of the game. And that's perfectly okay.
As he has been his entire eight-year career, Slater will be a core special teamer this season. He will see time on all four units and once again projects to be among the team and league leaders in both special teams snaps and tackles.
Even though he turns 31 two days before New England's season opener, and even though he had to battle minor ailments in 2015, Slater has shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to playing in the kicking game. Therefore, he is a lock to make the team – and a safe bet to be voted captain a sixth consecutive year.
In a way, Matthew Slater is the prototypical Patriot. He does his job very well. He leads by example both on and off the field. He is a professional. And while Slater is on the wrong side of 30, there is no reason to believe that he won't continue to be all that again in 2016.