Shining the spotlight on special teams

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Coaches often make point that special teams represents one-third of the game and thus carries similar importance as offense and defense.

Patriots special teams coach Scott O’Brien held a press conference with reporters this morning, and here were four items that stood out to me:

Mesko’s mechanics being slightly tweaked. Rookie punter Zoltan Mesko is adjusting to a slight tweaking of technique. He punted on the run at times at Michigan and O’Brien is working with him on a more conventional approach. He likes how Mesko, the team’s fifth-round draft choice and the first punter drafted in Bill Belichick’s Patriots tenure, has come to work every day and focused on improvement.

Return games top list of desired improvements. While the goal is improvement for all units, O’Brien pointed to the kickoff return and punt return units as the top areas that he hopes for improvement this year. The Patriots ranked 15th in kickoff return yardage last season and had a revolving door at returner. Receiver Brandon Tate has been one of the primary returners through the first 10 days of training camp.

Depth & experience desired with personal protectors on punt team. The Patriots have been working second-year safety Patrick Chung as the personal protector on the punt team, a key position because it helps set the protection. Sam Aiken was the primary personal protector last season. O’Brien said the goal is to create depth and experience at that spot and he mentioned Chung, Aiken and linebacker Thomas Williams as options at the crucial position.

Interesting “competition” at long snapper. The press conference, which lasted 20 minutes, ended on a light note. O’Brien was spotted working with Stephen Belichick on long-snapping skills earlier this week, and with that in mind, he was asked how the “competition” was unfolding between Jake Ingram and Belichick. He laughed. “It’s tight,” O’Brien said, adding that it’s always nice to try to help a player better himself at any level.