The New England Patriots, who started their 2018 mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with New England's punter.
Name: Ryan Allen
Jersey number: 6
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6’2, 220 lbs.
2017 review: Year in and year out th Patriots have one of the most productive offensive attacks in all of football. A consequence of this is that the team’s punter typically gets fewer snaps when compared to his peers across the league – and the 2017 season was no exception: Only one other punter that appeared in all 16 of his team's regular season games saw less on-field actions than Allen.
When on the field, the veteran was once again statistically unspectacular – Pro Football Focus ranked him as the second lowest graded punter last year – but mostly serviceable when it comes to setting coverage units up well. Overall, Allen attempted a total of 58 punts last year (30th in the NFL) and ranked 29th in punting average (43.4 yards/kick). His net yardage (40.5), for comparison, places him at number 18 in the NFL.
Allen's biggest strength is his ball placement in opposing territory. His touchback percentage (5.2%) was the 13th-best in the league last year, while his placement inside the 20-yard line (41.4%) ranks him 6th among punters. Furthermore, 24.1% of his kicks were caught fairly and when the ball was run back opposing returnmen gained only 4.6 yards per return – an improvement when compared to last year's 5.0 and second best in the NFL.
The Patriots' punter, as usual, also served as the holder on field goal and extra point attempts. There were no noteworthy issues in this area of his game.
2018 preview: For the first time since Allen earned the Patriots' punter job in 2013, he faces offseason competition: The Patriots signed New Mexico rookie Corey Bojorquez, who like Allen went undrafted, to add another body alongside their incumbent punter. Bojorquez comes with a strong length, something Allen has not consistently been able to display over the course of his career.
Despite all that, the 28-year old should still be seen as the favorite to emerge victoriously from the position battle. After all, Allen offers plenty of experience as well as the ability to place the football well and with sufficient hangtime to support the coverage unit. However, if he does not bring his A-game to training camp, Allen – entering the final year of his contract on a $2.0 salary cap hit – could very well see the younger and cheaper Bojorquez beat him out.
It would be a mild surprise, yes, but nothing unheard of: Allen also got his job by beating out the incumbent – Zoltan Mesko – as an undrafted rookie. He certainly needs to be ready to face this challenge.