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Thursday, August 21, 2014
Patriots showing up on special teams

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the often-overlooked places to look when it comes to a player's value to a team is in the kicking game.

With this in mind, here are the New England Patriots players who showed up on more than two top units (kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt coverage) in last Friday's preseason game against the Eagles:

Four units
Three units

There are a few reasons why those players might be showing up on so many special-teams units.

First, they might be viewed as core players who figure prominently into the kicking game, and thus are either locks (e.g. Slater) to make the team or near-locks (e.g. Bolden, White, Ebner).

Second, they might be getting extended action because of injuries to others as 19 Patriots players didn't suit up last Friday, including safeties Kanorris Davis and Tavon Wilson, whose primary value comes on special teams.

Finally, it might be a case where the coaching staff wants to get an extended look at some players who might be closer to the bubble (such as Bequette and Fleming).

The biggest takeway from here is how Bolden, the third-year running back from Ole Miss, gives the Patriots plenty of "bonus plays" on coverage units. After what looked like a slow start to training camp for him that included a missed week of practice when the team was in Washington, his roster spot looks fairly secure.