Friday, May 16, 2014

Special teams play priority No. 1 for Patriots' Hawkins


Whether they were chosen for size, speed or depth, undrafted free agents know they have a long and difficult path ahead of them when it comes to making the final roster.

For New England Patriots cornerback Travis Hawkins, who was likely chosen for his speed, that path may be greatly shortened if he can make an imprint on special teams.

Hawkins finished his collegiate career at Delaware, where he tallied four interceptions and eight pass breakups his senior year along with 66 tackles. The numbers that likely caught the eye of Patriots scouts, however, was the youngster’s 4.37 40-yard dash time, as well as his 25-yard kick return average.

“I played a lot of special teams in college and that's something I feel like will give me the best opportunity to play here,” Hawkins told Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston Friday. “It’s tough being a rookie. I just want to get around guys to teach me about the roots of being a Patriot.”

New England was slightly better than average in the kick return game last season despite not having a clear-cut return man, averaging 24 yards per attempt. LeGarrette Blount, Josh Boyce and Devin McCourty split the lion’s share of the team’s attempts, though Blount, who took nearly half of those reps and had the most success, shipped off to Pittsburgh this offseason on a two-year deal.

McCourty and Boyce averaged a combined 22 yards per attempt, and all three returners failed to get into the end zone. Hawkins, on the other hand, had a return for a touchdown with Blue Hens in 2013 and averaged more than 27 yards an attempt, according to the Boston Globe.

With Blount out of the picture, Hawkins may have a legit shot at taking the reins on returns, especially if he can show value as a depth player on defense his first year.

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