FOXBORO — Ever the special teams enthusiast, Bill Belichick loves to praise punters.
Before last year’s game with the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots coach called Johnny Hekker “a tremendous weapon.” During his press conference yesterday, Belichick’s opening remarks included a description of New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead as “about as good a punter as this league has ever seen.”
Maybe, but as his team prepares for Sunday’s game against the Saints, Belichick urgently needs to figure out who fields those punts when Morstead booms them.
Currently, the position is in flux.
Receiver Danny Amendola assumed the role in the opening loss to Kansas City, but suffered a concussion in the third quarter. In the only opportunity to field a punt after Amendola came off the field, safety Patrick Chung made a fair catch in the fourth quarter off a 43-yard boot from Dustin Colquitt.
Chung and wide receivers Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett seem like logical candidates to fill Amendola’s void, but nothing is settled and neither Hogan nor Dorsett seem to be primary options at the moment.
Belichick’s praise of Morstead is not unfounded. In Monday night’s loss to Minnesota, he averaged 57 yards per punt, including one that was downed at the 1-yard line.
If Morstead were to retire today, he would hold the league’s all-time record for yards per punt at 47.
In light of that, maybe the task at hand for someone fielding punts Sunday warrants a wave of the hand for a fair catch. Chung was fine in that respect last week and one has to assume the sure-handed Hogan can do the same.
Yesterday, Hogan said he catches balls in practice, but sees himself as more of a backup option.
Perhaps the most intriguing option is Dorsett, for several reasons. One, his electric speed — he clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine — could offer big play potential. Two, although he only recorded two returns in his two years with the Colts, he fielded 24 in his sophomore and junior years at the University of Miami.
He wasn’t terribly effective, with a career return average of 5.4 yards with the Hurricanes, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers. The Pats, who lost Cyrus Jones to a knee injury in the preseason and now Amendola last week, are definitely the former.
But Dorsett reiterated yesterday that he has yet to fill the role in practice and has mainly worked on catching up on the offensive playbook.
“No, whatever they ask me to do, I…