- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Going to shift things up a bit this week when it comes to the weekly special teams breakdown. After each game of the season, the idea has been to identify the players who are on multiple special teams units, which highlights their value to the club.
For this week, the idea is to list the full units within the "Big 4" (starters underlined) and then focus on a possible reason that Marquice Cole was inactive:
Punt coverage: Aiken (LS), Arrington, Chung, Ebner, Koutouvides, Mesko (P), Ninkovich, Rivera, Scott, Slater, White
Kickoff coverage: Arrington, Ebner, Edelman, Gostkowski (K), Koutouvides, Martin, McCourty, Rivera, Slater, White, Wilson
Punt return: Arrington, Chung, Ebner, Edelman/Welker (returner), Koutouvides, Martin, Rivera, Scott, Slater, Talib, White
Kickoff return: Ebner, Fells, Hoomanawanui, Koutouvides, McCourty, Rivera, Vereen, Wendell, White, Wilson, Woodhead
ANALYSIS: Cole's primary role on special teams comes on the punt return unit (he most often lines up across from the gunner on the outside of the formation) and the punt coverage unit (he's one of the gunners). Multiple factors seemed to converge to put Cole in a numbers crunch for a spot on the 46-man game-day roster. First, when the defensive staff decided that Alfonzo Dennard would start at right cornerback over Kyle Arrington, it led to an expansion of special teams duties for Arrington from 1 unit vs. the Colts to 3 units vs. the Jets. Arrington is ahead of Cole on the cornerback depth chart, and with the Patriots dressing an extra safety (5 total) with Patrick Chung returning, something had to give at cornerback. Also, newcomer Aqib Talib, who is being used in the vice against opposing gunners on the punt return unit, is taking some of Cole's reps. One line of thinking is that Cole should dress over someone like Derrick Martin, but they play different roles on special teams units (Martin is on kickoff coverage and plays inside on the punt return unit. ... As a follow-up to Rob Gronkowski's injury playing on the field-goal protection unit last Sunday against the Colts, Daniel Fells took his spot this week.