New England Patriots

  • EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots celebrates a field goal during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 30: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots celebrates a field goal during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    It’s hard to overstate what Nick Folk has meant to the Patriots.

    Kickers may be the proverbial runts of the litter in NFL locker rooms, but they play a position that you never want to question. You never want a revolving door. You never want ups and downs. You never want guys who shank one big kick and lose their mojo altogether. Consistency is key.

    Folk was 34 years old when he spent nearly a full calendar year out of football altogether. He’d come off a disastrous season with the Bucs in which he made only 54.5 (!) percent of his field goals. He actually played in the extremely short-lived Alliance of American Football in 2019. But by the end of that year, he was back in the NFL, with the Patriots. The team had blown through two other veterans, Kai Forbath and Mike Nugent, after losing Stephen Gostkowski to injury.

    It wasn’t a perfect return season for Folk, who went 14-of-17 on field goal tries. But he did go 12-for-12 on extra points. And in the two-and-a-half seasons since, he’s established himself as one of the most reliable kickers in football. Folk is tied for the fourth-best field goal percentage (91.7) among kickers who have played at least 20 games since 2020. Folk is tied for the league lead in games over that span with 41.

    Imagine the Patriots were still trying to find the kicker of the future.

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  • Folk has been clutch as they come as the kicker of the present, especially considering the circumstances. He first checked in halfway through Tom Brady’s tumultuous final season. He spent a year cleaning up after the Patriots’ struggling offense under Cam Newton. And now, for a season and a half, he’s been supporting young quarterbacks Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe through the growing pains.

    The 37-year-old Folk rightfully earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after his performance in Week 8 against the New York Jets. Folk went 5-for-5 on field goals and converted his only point-after try. He even drilled one from 52 yards out. Folk has never had the strongest leg and isn’t a lock from long distance, so that was a sign that he was locked in. He knew the team needed him to deliver. And he did, as he’s done for a while now.

    “Just trying to do my part,” Folk said after the win over the Jets. “Had a great operation with [holder] Jake [Bailey] and [long snapper] Joe [Cardona]. The line blocked well. Like I say all the time, I’ve got to put the cherry on top and put it through the uprights. So, just happy to have a good day.”

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 26: Place kicker Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a 22-yard field goal during the second half of a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 26: Place kicker Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a 22-yard field goal during the second half of a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

  • Bill Belichick obviously has taken notice. He had about as high of praise as you can for a kicker, when asked about the Patriots’ recent history of strength at the position.

    “Nick’s really good,” Belichick said. “He’s really, probably, of all the kickers, probably the smartest – they’re all smart, but really, just professional, totally understanding everything about kicking. Adam [Vinatieri] and Stephen [Gostkowski] were probably a little more talented, but just in terms of fundamentals, the execution, the consistency, Nick’s really good.

    “I mean, Adam’s really good, too. You’re talking about a hall-of-fame kicker. Honestly, all three of those guys could be. … It’s a key position and Nick’s been incredibly consistent.”

    The Pats have continued to monitor young kickers in recent years, most recently carrying third-year pro Tristan Vizcaino on the roster. Thankfully, they haven’t needed him or any new kid to step up, because they have Folk. Whose second act has been among the better ones in recent memory. Especially at his position.

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  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.