By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Despite their first sub-.500 finish in two decades, the Patriots were well represented on Friday when the Associated Press announced their All-Pro teams for 2020. Three players from New England made the cut, with two receiving First Team designations.
Punter Jake Bailey and punt returner Gunner Olszewski were both recognized as the top players at their respective positions by the AP. It’s the first All-Pro appearance for both. Matthew Slater received his seventh career All-Pro nod, as a Second Team special teamer. All three were also named to the Pro Bowl last month.
A fifth-round pick in 2019, Bailey led the NFL in net punt average in 2020. He finished with 45.6 net yards per punt, the second-best number in NFL history. A huge part of that was his impressive 31-to-5 inside 20-to-touchback ratio.
Olszewski also joined the Patriots in 2019, as an undrafted free agent. A cornerback and All-American returner at Bemidji State, he switched positions to wide receiver upon arriving in New England, but mainly focused on special teams. He set a new Patriots record with 17.3 yards per punt return in 2020. That’s nearly two yards better than the previous record – Julian Edelman’s 15.5 yards per return in 2012.
This is the fourth year in a row Slater has appeared on an All-Pro team. The 35-year-old is a crucial part of the Patriots’ special teams plan but especially on punts, and it a key reason why Bailey had so many downed inside the 20.
In a year where just about everything surrounding the Patriots felt different, the special teams play was as dominant as ever. Perhaps the only downside to an improved offense next year? Less chances for the punt team.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.