The New England Patriots will have to move forward without one of their most experienced and productive special teamers. Cody Davis, who suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns, will reportedly undergo surgery that will end his season.
Losing Davis will obviously weaken the Patriots’ kicking game operation. He was a five-unit player and entered Week 6 tied for the team lead with 99 snaps in the game’s third phase, and also ranked first with six tackles.
On Tuesday, one day after the 33-year-old was placed on injured reserve, New England head coach Bill Belichick explained the trickle-down effect of losing Davis and what it means to the team overall.
“You lose that player on five different units,” Belichick said. “Each unit has its own dynamics. Each unit has its own responsibilities that come with what he does. No team has a player that can replace a player like that. So, it would have to be some type of multiples. Nobody can just plug in a guy and get out of Cody Davis what he has given us. That player would already be on the field and if you move that one to him, then you replace the other guy.
“However it goes, is some type of combination of maybe changing some responsibilities, maybe in certain areas — again you’re talking about five different units — the answer is really not the same for every unit that he’s on. But the question has to be answered somewhere along the line.”
During his first and only six games this season, Davis saw regular action on five special teams units. He played on the front line on both the kickoff return and coverage teams, and also served as the personal punt protector as well as a vice player on punt return. Furthermore, he was a force player on the field goal and extra point blocking squads.
Needless to say that the process of replacing him impacts the entire team. As Belichick pointed out, replacing Davis goes beyond just inserting one player into the lineup.
“There’s also the backup for those five spots,” he explained. “Once you identify who the person is that’s going to replace Cody, then there’s five people that have to replace him. Or one person has to replace him on five different units, however you want to look at it. But it’s five replacements that you have to come up with. That’s part of the challenge of special teams and certainly being a special teams coach.
“You have multiple units, a lot of moving parts, you can’t backup — you have 66 spots on the six special team units, not counting the hands team and other situational plays like that. But those 66 spots you have to have 66 backups. Obviously, you have to have multiple players backing up in some capacity, however you organize it. But that’s what you deal with. Then when you lose one or two players in a game or whenever it is, it just becomes exponential.”
Belichick added that he has conversed about this issue special teams coaches Cam Achord and Joe Houston, assessing the available options. Ultimately, though, he pointed out that practice exposure and player workload will be determining factors.
“How much is too much for a player taking on some of that responsibility? Or can they handle more? Or is it multiple players? So forth, and so on,” Belichick said.
“Definitely a challenge. Cody’s going to be a player that’s really impossible to replace one-for-one. It’s going to have to be some type of maneuvering and shuffling to be able to handle the responsibilities that he’s done for us. We’re working on it. Every team has to deal with some element of this every year, every week. We’ll see what we can come up with.”