Patriots

Can fifth-round pick Jake Bailey break the mold when it comes to Patriots’ special teams approach?

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
(Photo Courtesy Stanford Athletics)

A punter? And in the fifth round? Even for a franchise that puts such an emphasis on special teams, it was a head-scratcher.

Stanford special teams coach Pete Alamar knows there will be a lot of questions about Jake Bailey, who was taken in the fifth round of last month’s draft by the Patriots. And while Alamar isn’t going to handicap the potential positional battle between New England incumbent Ryan Allen and Bailey, he says Bailey is more than capable of holding his own.

“When they talk about power off the tee, that’s club speed. You translate that to punting, and the punters’ leg is his club,” Alamar said of Bailey, a 6-foot-2, 202-pounder who averaged 44 yards per punt as a collegian. “Like golf, some guys possess the ability, but they don’t have the leg speed.

“Jake has phenomenal leg speed. He can generate a lot of speed at the point of impact and he can control it. It’s like a swing in baseball — guys have that bat speed, but they can’t control their swing. Jake has the power and the control.”

The truth of the matter is that his arrival could signal a shift in New England’s special teams thinking: One, Bill Belichick has used lefty punters almost exclusively for more than a decade — his last regular right-footed punter was Todd Sauerbrun in 2006. Bailey is a righty -- apparently, it was one of the first things he talked with the team  about when he got the call from New England.

And two, while at Stanford, he handled kickoff duties in addition to his work as a punter. (Of his 291 career kickoffs, he put 173 into the end zone — a rate of 60 percent.) By our estimate, Belichick has never split the kicking duties, always keeping just one kicker on the roster to handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points.

But is it possible the Belichick has changed his thinking, and could have Bailey handle one or both -- as well as maybe even working as the holder on extra points and field goals?

By the sound of it, if there’s one guy who might make you alter your approach, it’s Bailey.