The Patriots Have Disastrously Mismanaged the Kicker Position This Season

While New England fans sat down to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families, Patriots kicker Nick Folk probably wasn’t having the best time. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported yesterday that Folk recently underwent an appendectomy and will miss Sunday’s game as a result. Rapoport added that Folk is unlikely to miss anymore time beyond that, but didn’t completely rule it out. While it’s not really the Patriots fault that Folk needed his appendix removed, it’s just another example of the kicker position failing the team this season.

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This news comes on the heels of Folk missing two of his four field goal attempts in Sunday’s win over Dallas. The Patriots also could’ve opted to line up for 58-yard field goal at the end of the game to put them up 7 rather than punting away to Dallas, but it’s hard to imagine that would’ve been within Folk’s range anyway. Folk’s career long is only 56 yards, but had the Patriots had Stephen Gostkowski, who’s career long is 62 yards, maybe that decision would’ve been a little harder.

At first glance, it might come across as unfair to be too hard on Nick Folk. Sure, he’s now missing time with an appendectomy and he missed two kicks on Sunday that would’ve resulted in the Cowboys being down two possessions at the end of the game rather than having a chance to win with a touchdown, but the conditions were rough and Folk had been perfect up until this last game. But when looking at things a little more closely, it’s hard to give Folk much credit at all for what he was able to do in his first two games as a Patriot.

Folk’s four attempts on field goals beyond 40 yards on Sunday were his first four attempts from that distance since joining the team. The majority of his field goal attempts had been some of the easiest kicks any NFL kicker will ever see. They included two 22-yarders and one 19-yarder, the latter of which was just the third field goal under 20 yards that Nick Folk has attempted in his entire 12-year career. Once things got tough, Folk looked just as shaky as Mike Nugent did.

Nugent and Folk have both proven to be unreliable replacing Stephen Gostkowski. Meanwhile, Younghoe Koo, whom the Patriots had on their practice squad this season, is off to a pretty good start in Atlanta. Koo is currently 12th in the league in field goal percentage, tied with Kansas City’s Harrison Butker at 85.7%. That puts him well ahead of both Folk and Nugent while attempting much longer kicks. Koo has hit four of his five attempts of over 40 yards while Folk has hit just a measly 50% of such kicks and Nugent missed the only field goal over 40 yards the Patriots let him attempt.

Before you say Koo has it easy kicking in a dome in Atlanta, bare in mind that Atlanta’s former kicker, Matt Bryant, only hit 64.3% of his kicks before being cut by the Falcons. That ranks Bryant 32nd in the league in field goal percentage. Kicking in a dome doesn’t make things as easy as it may seem.

Not only has Koo made more of his kicks than Nugent and Folk, but he’s proven to have more range too. His season long of 48 yards is longer than Folk’s season long of 44 or Nugent’s season long of just 37 yards.

Now the Patriots bring in Kai Forbath, whose career field goal percentage since 2015 of 83.6% is worse than Koo’s current mark. The Patriots could’ve had Koo, but decided to go with Nugent instead. Nugent clearly doesn’t have an NFL caliber leg anymore and the Patriots showed everyone they were aware of that by not letting Nugent attempt any more than one field goal over 40 yards. Belichick liked Koo enough to put him on the practice squad, but not enough to sign him over Nugent? That should be a hard pill for New England fans to swallow.

Replacing Stephen Gostkowski has proven to be a lot harder than most seemed to think it would be. Those calling for Gostkowski’s job over the past few years are getting served a hearty plate of crow as the Patriots bring in one lousy kicker after another. You can go ahead and add “not signing Younghoe Koo” to the growing list of personnel mistakes that the Patriots have made this season. There’s a nice comfy spot for it right below signing Antonio Brown and trading for Michael Bennett.


Photo: (Steven Senne – AP Photo)

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