Nick Folk may not Help Fix Patriots’ Kicking Woes

It was announced Tuesday that, after a blocked 29-yard attempt and a missed 34-yard attempt in Sunday’s win against the Cleveland Browns, Patriots kicker Mike Nugent had been released from the team.

In a corresponding move, New England signed Nick Folk, who last played for the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF before the league shut down operations less than halfway through their first season.

New England now becomes a member of the laundry-list of teams who are using a “kicker by committee,” cycling through kickers after one or two bad games. Folk becomes the latest of many big name, big leg kickers signed this season. While Folk has a long history of kicking in the NFL, kicking for 11 seasons, he may not be the fit for the Patriots job.

One question that many asked (and fairly so) when Stephen Gostowski was having his kicking troubles was: “Who would be better?”

Clearly, it wasn’t Nugent. The “be careful what you wish for” Gostowski defenders were in full force when Nugent missed four kicks in four games.

While Folk may not be the answer either, here are some names to think about, and maybe a different strategy that New England could use.

The first name to look at is Cole Tracy. The Assumption College kicker transferred to LSU in his senior season and became one of the nation’s best kickers. This is the name that stands out the most.

Tracy proved that he could handle the big stage at LSU, breaking an NCAA record with 97 field goals made, after coming over from a DII school in Assumption. He didn’t miss an extra point all season and went 26-28 inside 50 yards.

The downside of Tracy is his lack of long kicks. The scouting report on him is that his long kicks tend to die out, and he has never handled kick-off duties. However, for a Patriots team that already has Jake Bailey handling kick-off duties, there really isn’t a need for that from Tracy.

Jameson Vest is the next name to look at. You’ve probably never heard of him. Vest was a four-year kicker at Toledo who had a career 75 percent field goal percentage. In his last three seasons, he did not miss from 20-29 yards. It may not seem like much, but in today’s NFL, that means something. The knock on Vest is again, his career-long was only 49 yards. He didn’t have a big leg, but he was accurate from close range.

Here’s a question for Patriots fans; Are you more confident in Tom Brady and the offense converting a 4th-&-5, or a random kicker making a 50-yard field goal? If I’m Bill Belichick, I’m taking the kicker that is lights out from close-range, despite not having a big leg. Go for a first down if it’s over a 50-yard field goal, and allow your small, but accurate kicker go to work from under 50.

The infatuation with kickers with big legs has become a trend in the NFL. A majority of teams seem more concerned about a kicker being able to boot one from 60 yards rather than make a 40-yard kick with the game on the line.

If the Patriots can get a consistent kicker who may not have the biggest leg, they have a good enough offense (and quarterback) that can get them through a majority of fourth downs from the opponent’s 35-40 yard line.

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