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Monday, December 24, 2012
Weekly special teams breakdown

By Mike Reiss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the ESPNBoston.com weekly Patriots mailbag, “ASB” from Portland, Oregon shared a thought on our weekly special teams breakdown:

“Could you also list the personnel on the Pats' FG and FG block teams, as well as onside kick "hands" teams (kick and receive)?”

Sometimes those units don’t present themselves in a game, but two additions (field-goal protection and field-goal block) have been made to the weekly breakdown.

A few notables on special teams for the Patriots from Sunday's win over the Jaguars:

1. Matthew Slater returned kickoffs in place of Devin McCourty. That elevated Shane Vereen into the second returner position, which is usually taken by Slater.

2. After three holding penalties on the punt return unit last week, that group played cleaner. Tracy White’s return from injury was a change from last week.

3. Wes Welker continued to return punts.

4. Running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Niko Koutouvides and receiver Matthew Slater played on all four core units, which highlights their value on the 46-man game-day roster.

5. Receiver Kamar Aiken, who was promoted off the practice squad, played on the kickoff return unit in place of Danny Woodhead.

The breakdown (based on the initial units on the field):

Punt coverage: Danny Aiken (LS), Brandon Bolden, Patrick Chung (personal protector), Marquice Cole, Niko Koutouvides, Zoltan Mesko (punter), Rob Ninkovich, Mike Rivera, Trevor Scott, Matthew Slater, Tracy White.

Punt return: Brandon Bolden, Deion Branch, Marquice Cole, Nate Ebner, Justin Francis, Michael Hoomanawanui, Niko Koutouvides, Derrick Martin, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Wes Welker (returner).

Kickoff coverage: Kyle Arrington, Brandon Bolden, Marquice Cole, Nate Ebner, Stephen Gostkowski (kicker), Niko Koutouvides, Devin McCourty, Mike Rivera, Matthew Slater, Tracy White, Tavon Wilson.

Kickoff return: Kamar Aiken, Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Niko Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, Matthew Slater, Shane Vereen, Ryan Wendell, Tavon Wilson.

Field-goal protection: Danny Aiken (LS), Marcus Cannon, Daniel Fells, Stephen Gostkowski (kicker) Logan Mankins, Nick McDonald, Zoltan Mesko (holder), Nate Solder, Donald Thomas, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell.

Field-goal block: Kyle Arrington, Patrick Chung, Brandon Deaderick, Chandler Jones, Kyle Love, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Vince Wilfork, Tavon Wilson.