Five things from Tuesday: Shayne Graham and Matt Katula on the way, while Jake Ingram says farewell
|11.09.10 at 4:30 pm ET|
The five most important things we learned from the Patriots on a surprisingly busy Tuesday:
1. The Patriots appear to have their fill-in kicker with Stephen Gostkowski on the shelf.
There was no locker room access — Tuesday is the players’ day off around the league — but as is usually the case, there was a conference call with coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio. There was a lot of talk about the Steelers, as well as the situation involving Stephen Gostkowski and what to look for when the Patriots are scouting kickers.
Belichick indicated that they had no news on Gostkowski’s health at this time, but multiple reports indicated the Patriots were close to signing Shayne Graham to at least fill the void while Gostkowski is on the shelf. Graham had a workout last month with the Patriots, so it wasn’t a surprise to see. It’s expected he’ll kick on Sunday against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
One of the things that might have been working in Graham’s favor is his knowledge of Heinz Field — a former Bengal (he was with Cincinnati from 2003 to 2009), he’s spent a lot of time kicking in Pittsburgh, considered one of the toughest places to kick in the league because of sometimes uneven turf.
“I think really in the end you just do what you feel is best for the club. There are going to be conditions that we face every week whether it’s here, Pittsburgh, whatever stadium that we play in,” Caserio said. “You go with the player that you feel is best for the club based on a number of different experiences: your experience with the player, if you’ve had any, coaches’ experience with the player, how the player’s performed, etc. In the end you try to do what’s best for your football team regardless of the stadium you’re playing in that particular week.”
2. Tuesday also marked the end of Jake Ingram’s time in a Patriots uniform, as his agent confirmed the news he had been released by New England. The long snapper out of Hawaii was a sixth-round pick of New England in 2009, the man sent to replace the legendary Lonie Paxton. While Ingram sailed through his rookie year without incident, he struggled this season, bouncing a pair of snaps on punts last month against the Chargers and delivering a messy snap last week in the loss to the Browns.
Earlier this week, Belichick was asked about Ingram’s struggles against the Browns.
“Well, I think this is one of those games where we can probably list every player that was active and talk about some type of inconsistencies — (even) coaches for that matter,” said Belichick. “It wasn’t one of our better performances by a long shot. We all had a hand in it, so I think you can say that about everybody – there [are] some plays that they’d like to have back or weren’t as good as we’re used to seeing.”
3. Meet the new guy. Matt Katula will be the one who takes Ingram’s place. A 28-year-old out of Wisconsin, Katula was the long snapper the last four years with the Ravens. (Long snapper or no, at 6-feet-6 and 272 pounds, he is one of the biggest players on the team.) He was cut in training camp — two years into a five-year deal — because of chronic tendinitis in his snapping elbow. When Katula was cut loose, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was effusive in his praise for the Wisconsin product.
“Matt’s a very good snapper. There’s no question he can do it in this league,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a couple things I think he’s still working on, he’s cleaning up a little bit from last year. We had a younger guy that looked good, and that’s sometimes the nature of the business. But talking to Matt this morning, he understood, and I’m very confident he’ll be snapping for somebody this year.”
4. With Katula and Graham (at least on a part-time basis) taking over the long snapping and kicking duties, the Patriots trio of specialists is suddenly looking very new — punter Zoltan Mesko, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, is now the senior member of the Patriots when it comes to all-time games with the franchise.
It’s a duo that’s easy to take for granted, but since 2000, the Patriots have been lucky to have extraordinary success when it comes to keeping their long snappers and kickers healthy. Adam Vinatieri didn’t miss a game for the Patriots from 1996 until 2005, and it appears that Gostkowski will now miss his first game since he was taken in the 2006 draft. Meanwhile, Paxton only suffered one semi-serious injury in his nine-year career with the Patriots that ran from 2000 until 2008. (He suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed the end of the 2003 season, including Super Bowl XXXVIII.)
5. One of the great things about Steelers week is being reminded of the fact that they really haven’t changed much over the years, especially on defense. They’ve always been stout on defense, and this year is no exception: Pittsburgh enters Sunday’s game fourth in the league in total defense (they’ve allowed 298.3 yards per game total) and best in the league in both run defense (58.3 rushing yards per game) and points allowed (15.4 per game). Belichick has always professed the utmost respect for Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and what he brings to the table, and Tuesday was no exception.
“Coach LeBeau always has a change up here or there,” Belichick said. “But they’ve been so successful doing what they’re doing [that] they really don’t do a whole lot different or don’t do a whole lot of things you haven’t seen before because they’re successful at doing it and they don’t really need to change much.
“They’re well-coached. They’re really solid. You have to worry about everybody: the outside linebackers, the inside linebackers, the safeties, the down linemen. [Their] corners are good tacklers. So, they have good players and they use them all in ways that are weapons for the defense. There are problems offensively that you have to handle. Those guys make a lot of plays. They’re well coached. They’re very talented and they do a really good job on everything, particularly defensively, but all the way across the board. But, they are very good on defense.”
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