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Could having a rookie punter and kicker be an issue for Pats?

Bryce Baringer and Chad Ryland will handle punting and kicking duties, respectively.

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The New England Patriots special teams unit may go through some growing pains in 2023.

Bill Belichick's team will enter the new campaign with a rookie punter and kicker. Bryce Baringer, a sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan State, will handle the punting duties. Chad Ryland, a fourth-rounder out of Maryland, will take over for Nick Folk after the veteran kicker was traded to the Tennessee Titans.

Both specialists enjoyed outstanding collegiate careers, but kicking in the NFL is an entirely different animal. Rookie kickers have converted only 83 percent of their field goal attempts from 2018 to 2022, according to ESPN Stats and Info. That figure would have ranked 24th among kickers last season.

Is that a serious concern heading into Week 1? 98.5 The Sports Hub's Marc Bertrand discussed with our Phil Perry on Friday's Early Edition.

"I think that it's something that bears watching. It's something we're all curious to see how it plays out," Bertrand said. "But I think that if the Patriots have a kicker that's struggling, they'll cut him and go get another one. I think that's as simple as it is.

"And I don't think they're just going to stick with the guy because he won the job out of camp. So he's either going to perform, and he's going to continue to kick for this team, or it goes horribly wrong and they say we're not good enough to sustain dealing with a guy who misses field goals every week."

Perry agrees it's a situation worth monitoring, and it could impact how plays are called early in the season, but he believes Belichick and the Patriots would take a less drastic approach with their rookie kicker

"You made a real investment in this guy. I'm not sure they would (cut him)," Perry said. "I think what they would do is they would handle him differently than they would handle a Nick Folk or Stephen Gostkowski as a veteran. If you remember, I go back to Stephen Goskowski's rookie year. It felt like there were situations, high-pressure kicks including in the Super Bowl, that maybe they didn't ask him to do because he was a rookie.

"I think you do have to, in some cases, treat him with kid gloves so to speak because you don't want to shatter his confidence. Because yes, the stadiums and being comfortable and understanding the wind, that's all part of the job. So is your head space. That is a huge, huge part of especially the kicker job that Chad Ryland has.

"I'm not as concerned or would be as concerned about Bryce Baringer, but having confidence is so massive and I think again, like the offensive line and the struggles and the injuries they're dealing with there, that's gonna impact how you call the game in Week 1. I think having a rookie kicker could impact how you call the game in Week 1. Maybe you go forward on fourth-and-short as opposed to taking that long field goal."

How the Patriots approach those situations will be up to Bill O'Brien, who replaced the dysfunctional duo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as offensive play-caller. The good news is even if Ryland struggles, the Pats offense is expected to take a significant step forward with O'Brien leading the charge.

Pats fans will get their first glimpse of Ryland and Baringer when the regular season kicks off Sept. 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium.

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