The New England Patriots, who are in the middle of their 2019 organized team activities, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s punters:
Name: Ryan Allen
Jersey number: 6
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6’2, 220 lbs.
2018 review: Coming off another solid but mostly unspectacular season, Ryan Allen saw the Patriots bring in some competition during the 2018 offseason in the form of undrafted rookie free agent Corey Bojorquez. Being faced with a challenger for the first time since his 2013 rookie campaign, Allen quickly proved why he was still the best punter in New England: he had effectively beat out Bojorquez by mid-preseason.
Allen went on to start all 19 of the Patriots’ games during the 2018 season and was once again statistically mediocre — Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 24th best punter in football last year — but serviceable. In the regular season, the veteran attempted 64 punts (18th most in the NFL) and ranked 16th in gross punting average (45.1 yards/kick, the same as Bojorquez had for the Buffalo Bills) as well as 19th with a net of 39.5.
Allen was also comparatively average when it came to his ball placement in opposing territory. His touchback percentage (7.8%) was the 16th-best in the league last year, while his placement inside the 20-yard line (32.8%) ranked him 23rd among his peers. Furthermore, 12.5% of his kicks were caught fairly; when the ball was run back, opponents gained 10.2 yards per return — far worse than last year’s 4.6, but more reflective of the Patriots’ early season coverage issues than Allen’s actual performance.
While Allen, who also served as the Patriots’ holder on field goal and extra point attempts without any noticeable issues, was pretty mediocre in most aspects last year, he did deliver an outstanding performance on the game’s biggest stage: in a defensively dominated Super Bowl, Allen played a key role in the field position game and his outing (5 punts, 43.0 gross, 40.6 net, three inside the 20) could have been worthy of MVP consideration.
2019 preview: After the 2018 season, Allen was allowed to test free agency before ultimately re-signing in New England on a one-year deal that hits the Patriots’ salary cap with $1.5 million but includes only $100,000 in guarantees. The structure of the contract is reflective of Allen’s standing on the team: he is not guaranteed a roster spot, despite his experience and coming off a very good performance in the Super Bowl.
What also adds to this belief is the fact that the Patriots added strong-legged Jake Bailey in the fifth round of this year’s draft. Not only does the rookie cost only a fraction of the incumbent, he also brings experience as a kickoff specialist to the table — and is under contract for the next four years, as opposed to Allen who is scheduled to hit free agency again next season.
And while the 29-year-old offers plenty of experience as well as an ability to place the football well and with sufficient hangtime to support the coverage unit, he could very well be beat out by Bailey if he does not bring his A-game to training camp. The key might be consistency: while Allen’s performances hardly ever fluctuate, Bailey has been up-and-down during the only organized team activity practice open to the media.
Needless to say that the battle of the punters will be one of the most intriguing this summer.