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Patriots training camp preview: Will there be a competition at punter?

Related: Patriots training camp preview: How will New England use its safeties?

New England Patriost Practice”n Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2022 training camp is right around the corner. Today, the team will reconvene at Gillette Stadium to kick off its next level of preparation for the upcoming season — and all that goes with it: full-contact practices, camp competitions, joint sessions, you name it.

Leading up to this year’s camp, we have taken a look at all position groups on New England’s roster to give you some idea about the key actors, battles and storylines at each of them. Today, we will conclude our series with the specialists.

Position group

The Patriots’ special teams groups are marked by stability, with the same operation in place ever since Nick Folk’s arrival in 2019: he, punter Jake Bailey and long snapper Joe Cardona have been undisputed in their roles ever since. However, New England added some competition this spring.

Place kickers


Long snappers

The Patriots originally were at least two-deep at all three specialist positions. However, undrafted rookie long snapper Ross Reiter has since been released and second-year kicker Quinn Nordin waived before reverting to the season-ending non-football injury list.

That leaves Tristan Vizcaino and Jake Julien as the challengers his summer for the kicker and punter jobs, respectively. Of course, it is entirely possible that they will have no real impact whatsoever and effectively only serve as camp legs. Time will tell.

Camp competitions

Jake Bailey vs. Jake Julien: Bailey has been one of the better punters in the NFL ever since arriving in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. However, his job might not be as safe as it appears to be: not only did the team add Jake Julien as competition, Bailey also is entering the final year of his contract while carrying a $4.06 million salary cap hit — the second highest among all punters in the league. If Julien is able to keep the competition close, the compensation difference might just sway it in the undrafted rookie’s favor.

Nick Folk vs. Tristan Vizcaino: Folk has been a revelation for the Patriots ever since they picked him off the proverbial free agent scrapheap. Of course, past production does not guarantee anybody a roster spot in Bill Belichick’s system; it does bode well for the competition with Vizcaino, though. Unlike the offseason addition, Folk has already proven that he can play successful football in New England’s inclement weather conditions.

Stories to watch

When will Jake Bailey return off NFI? The Patriots sent their incumbent punter to the non-football illness list on Monday, meaning that he will start training camp on the sidelines. What exactly the nature of said illness is, or how long it will keep him out, is anybody’s guess at this point in time. However, the longer Bailey remains absent the more opportunities to prove himself will go to the aforementioned Jake Julien.

Will Nick Folk continue his high-level play? As noted above, Folk has played some impressive football ever since originally joining the Patriots in 2019. However, at age 37 he is a potential candidate for regression. Of course, all of that is just pre-camp speculation but the team did add Tristan Vizcaino to serve as an emergency depth option in the unlikely case that things should go wrong with the veteran as he embarks on his 15th season as a pro.

What will the punt protection unit look like? The Patriots struggled mightily protecting punter Jake Bailey last year, surrendering a league-high three blocks. Changes are a must but it remains to be seen whether they will come in the from of some new coaching points or personnel changes (or both). Either way, New England cannot let 2021’s debacle repeat itself.