The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts later this month, currently have 89 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 New England’s long snapper.
Name: Joe Cardona
Position: Long snapper
Jersey number: 49
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6’3, 245 lbs.
2018 review: Even though he ended 2017 in the worst possible fashion for a long snapper — by having an inaccurate snap that led to a missed field goal in a Super Bowl loss — the Patriots showed trust in Joe Cardona the following offseason: in June, the team extended his contract through a four-year, $4.31 million. The investment paid off, as Cardona returned to his usual solid levels of play over the course of the 2018 season.
After spending his offseason once again juggling his service duty with the Navy and his role on New England’s roster, Cardona played appeared in all sixteen regular season games as well as the Patriots’ three playoff contests and finished with playing time percentages of 32.5% (147 of 453) and 32.6% (30 of 92), respectively. The former fifth-round draft pick lined up in the middle of the line to snap the football on each of his snaps.
Like he has been during the first three years of his career in the NFL, Cardona was a rather accurate long snapper. Of his snaps, only a handful were slightly off target with just one all year being classified as ‘mostly inaccurate.’ As a result, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter/holder Ryan Allen had enough time to properly go through their motions and did not see any of their kicks blocked or obstructed in a play-altering way.
During the regular season, Cardona snapped the football 146 times: 115 of his snaps (78.8%) were accurate with the receiver — the aforementioned Allen — not having to adjust in any meaningful way. During the playoffs, 21 of Cardona’s 26 snaps (80.8%) fell in the same category. All in all, only 35 snaps all year long were slightly off target (20.3%) with just one forcing Allen to safe the play on a quick punt.
As opposed to one year before, Cardona was at his best on the biggest stage: he snapped the football 9 times with each one being almost perfectly on target. It was the high point of the Patriots long snapper’s season — and a fitting way to end a very good 2018 campaign.
2019 preview: Cardona, who was promoted to Lieutenant by the Navy earlier this offseason, enters the new year with a roster spot locked up: his combination of past success, experience, and modest salary cap hit (of ‘only’ $955,000) — let alone the lack of competition on the roster — make him a surefire bet to be on New England’s team yet again. And as usual, he should be a reliable part of New England’s kicking game operation.
The main question this summer and potentially heading into the regular season will be how Cardona fares with rookie punter Jake Bailey: the Patriots invested in the Stanford product in the fifth round of this year’s draft to bring competition against incumbent Ryan Allen on board. If Bailey is able to win this battle, Cardona would have to get used to working with a new punter and holder for the first time in his career.
If the past is any indication, however, the 27-year-old — and by extension the Patriots’ kicking game — should fare just fine in 2019, no matter who does the punting and holding.