The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
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 continue the series with long snapper Joe Cardona.
Name: Joe Cardona
Position: Long snapper
Jersey number: 49
Size: 6'2, 245 lbs.
2015 review: A long snapper. From Navy. Who played lacrosse in high school. What sounds like the player of Bill Belichick’s dreams became a reality in the 2015 NFL draft when his team picked Midshipmen senior Joe Cardona in the fifth round.
After the Patriots did not re-sign 2014 starter Danny Aiken and released second-year man Tyler Ott a week after the draft, Cardona became New England’s number one option at long snapper. This status was cemented once the long snapper was cleared to play his rookie season by the Navy.
Cardona had a very good first year in the NFL as an integral part of the Patriots’ kicking operation. He helped kicker Stephen Gostkowski make 95.8% of his attempts (92 of 96), while also being a consistent member of the punting game; helping Ryan Allen to the best season of his career.
Overall, Cardona appeared in all 18 of New England’s games, playing roughly a third of the Patriots’ special teams snaps. Furthermore, he was credited with only 10 off-target snaps (0.63 per game). Compared to former long snapper Danny Aiken, who had 25 off-target snaps (1.67 per game) in 2014, the position clearly improved with Cardona at the helm.
2016 preview: The biggest long snapper-related question entering the offseason was whether or not Cardona would be cleared to play in 2016 by the Navy. United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus put an end to the speculation in May, stating that the 24-year old would be able to play while simultaneously fulfilling his five-year commitment.
Mabus’ decision has not yet been made official, though, as the Office of the Secretary of Defense has to make the final call. However, according to Mike Reiss, things are looking good for the Patriots. Assuming all goes as planned, Cardona will therefore not only work for the Patriots in 2016 but also for the Navy. He will likely assume the role he had last year and once a week work a 24-hour shift at the Naval Academy Preparatory School.
From an on-field-perspective, Cardona will be New England’s long snapper in 2016. After all, he has had a very good first year in Foxboro and showed why the Patriots were willing to invest a draft pick in him. Seeing him lose his spot to veteran signing Christian Yount seems unrealistic.
If all goes as planned, Joe Cardona will be the Patriots’ long snapper in 2016. Despite working two jobs, he is projected to improve his craft even further and possibly become one of the league’s best at the position.