Patriots UDFA Is Hopeful to Fill All-Pro Special Teamer Matthew Slater’s Role

Patriots Special Teamer Brenden Schooler

Getty Images Patriots Special Teamer Brenden Schooler

For the past 13 seasons, the New England Patriots rostered the best special teams player in football. But that era has ended as all-world special teamer Matthew Slater retired following the end of the 2023 season. Now, another Patriot hopes to take over right where Slater left off.

Brenden Schooler finds himself in a formidable position as he tries to step into the shoes of Matthew Slater, who served as the linchpin of the New England Patriots special teams unit for over a decade. With Slater’s retirement, Schooler faces the challenge of revitalizing a phase of the game that struggled in the previous season, as the Patriots ranked 28th in DVOA among NFL teams in 2023. In a May 14 press conference at Foxboro Stadium, Schooler discussed his preparedness for a more significant role.

The enormity of the task is compounded by the legacy left behind by Slater, a player widely regarded as one of the most outstanding special teams performers in NFL history. Slater’s illustrious career spanned 16 seasons with the Patriots, during which he amassed an impressive array of accolades, including three Super Bowl championships, 10 Pro Bowl selections, and eight All-Pro honors.

Schooler is Prepared For a Larger Role

For Schooler, the opportunity to contribute to the resurgence of the Patriots’ special teams unit is exciting and daunting. But he fully understands that Slater earned his leadership role through experience and handling himself correctly, and he is looking to do the same.

“Being one of those guys that has a lot of game experience, especially when you’re talking about special teams and that core group, I think trying to take more of a leadership role,” Schooler said Tuesday. “Matt was the guy in the past few seasons I was here. So just taking that leadership role and then holding those guys to a certain standard.

Becoming the de facto veteran in the special teams room this early in his career speaks volumes about Brenden Schooler’s leadership qualities and football acumen. With the departures of seasoned players like Matthew Slater and Cody Davis and the release of Chris Board, Schooler has stepped into a pivotal role as both a contributor on the field and a mentor off it.

“I don’t know everything. I’ll be the first one to say that, and those guys between the two of them (Slater and Davis) have 20-plus years experience in this league,” Schooler said. “I’m not like a big rah-rah guy. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to work my tail off and I’m going to lead through example. So just doing it, showing up every day not only for myself but for these guys to set an example, especially young guys.

Schooler Has Been a Big-Time Playmaker

Any player who aspires to fill Matthew Slater’s shoes must be more than just a vocal leader. They need to be a playmaker. And in his short career, Brenden Schooler has been just that. In his second season, he demonstrated exceptional versatility and playmaking ability, appearing in all 17 games and contributing on 89% of special teams’ snaps.

His standout moment came during a Week 2 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. His pre-snap speed and anticipation allowed him to execute a game-changing block on Dolphins’ kicker Jason Sanders’ 49-yard field goal attempt. This pivotal play showcased Schooler’s ability to disrupt opposing teams’ plans and swing momentum in favor of the Patriots.

Schooler’s outstanding performance throughout the season didn’t go unnoticed. He was recognized with a well-deserved spot on the 2023 NFLPA All-Pro team, further solidifying his reputation as one of the league’s premier special teams contributors.

Despite entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Texas in 2022, Schooler quickly earned recognition from the NFLPA and the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) with All-Rookie honors in his debut season. His consistent production and impact on the field underscore his importance to the Patriots’ special teams success and highlight his potential for continued growth and success in the coming seasons.