Bill Belichick still thinks Stephen Gostkowski is ‘one of the best kickers in the league’
|08.17.13 at 3:26 pm ET|
It hasn’t been the best of camps in terms of productivity for Stephen Gostkowski. But his coach isn’t worried, a point that was underscored Saturday in a conference call with reporters.
Friday night, Gostkowski connected on a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter. He connected on a 35-yarder in the third quarter but it was nullified by a holding penalty. He moved back five yards to attempt a 45-yarder only to have a false start make a routine 35-yarder turn into a not-so routine 50-yard attempt. That kick was struck well but faded at the last moment and hit the right upright, falling to the ground for his third miss of the preseason.
“I think he’s had a good camp, he’s worked really hard, he’s in good condition, he’s kicked the ball well – he’s been hitting the ball very solidly consistently,” Belichick said when asked Saturday. “I know that he’ll continue to work hard to do everything he can, and so will the other people involved in the operation, snapping and holding, however that turns out.”
Against Philadelphia, Gostkowski missed wide right from 44 and 53 yards.
“I have confidence that he’s one of the best kickers in the league,” Belichick said.
Unlike the punting job, which is currently a battle between Zoltan Mesko and Ryan Allen, there is no current competition to Gostkowski, who is in the fourth year of a five-year contract paying him $15.7 million.
Instead of focusing on Gostkowski, Belichick said the entire kicking operation can improve.
“He’s a part of that, but so is the snapper and so is the holder,” Belichick said. “We’ve had three different snappers and two different holders in camp and in the preseason games. You want to have multiple people ready, which means that multiple people will have to work with each other. At some point, we have to settle in to whichever guys it is that we think are going to do most of the work this year at that position.”
Gostkowski is 2-for-5 so far in the preseason with both kicks under 40 yards, a 34-yard success against the Eagles and a 39-yard connection Friday against Tampa Bay. While Belichick was supportive, he added that if the struggles continue, he wouldn’t rule out bringing in competition.
“As I’ve said many times before, I would consider doing anything that I think would help our team,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out. If there is something that we can do that would help our football team, then as part of my job, that’s what I try to do.”
Here is the remainder of Belichick’s conference call from Saturday:
BB: I think last night was a really good end to a good, productive week for our football team, coaches and players. We got a lot out of the practices with Tampa. It certainly helped our coaching staff in terms of beginning to react to game-type situations, more of those and matching up against somebody other than our own team. The players did that too. A lot of situations came up in the game that were good for us to learn from. That’s the most important part of the whole process and the game, is us moving ahead as a football team, guys making improvements individually, guys that are working together being able to communicate and operate as a team in those groups or units.
And ultimately our overall organization as a team: substitutions, other situations that we have to be able to handle and manage as a team. I thought we did better at some than others. Ten penalties last night is obviously a lot more than we had last week against Philadelphia, so we’ll have to clean that up. In the end it ended up being a very competitive game, probably the major difference in the game being the interception that Logan [Ryan] returned for a touchdown. They’ve got a good football team. They’ve got a lot of good players and they’re well coached. It was a great situation for us and we learned a lot from it last night.
Q: What are you seeing in the defensive tackles behind Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly? What do you like about those guys?
BB: I think it’s a pretty competitive situation, guys with different skills and we’re just trying to evaluate them and fit it all in and see how it all plays out. They got a lot of playing time again last night like they did in Philadelphia. That will continue in training camp and the last couple preseason games and see how it all plays out. They’re all improving; they all had some moments of good things and some things that need to be better. I know as a group, those guys work hard, they’re very receptive to coaching and trying to improve and understand how they can perform better. We’ll see how that progresses here with that group.
Q: You mentioned Logan Ryan’s interception. Is there anywhere specific you’ve seen him proving so far in camp?
BB: I think he’s improved in a lot of areas. Obviously he had a good career and was a good player coming out of college, but working against players at this level is an adjustment. His technique, his recognition, and of course in the secondary, communication is such a big part of the game. No matter who you’re playing for or what you’re playing, being able to communicate with your teammates back there in the secondary – there’s not much margin for error. That’s important for every player, especially young ones – to understand where their help is and know how to handle different formations, big receivers, bunch receivers, slot, no slot, whatever it happens to be, run force. He’s worked hard. He’s been durable. He’s been out there and gotten a lot of snaps and he continues to improve with those repetitions, so he’s definitely making progress. He’s shown some position versatility by playing both inside and outside for us over the course of camp.
Q: What have you seen in the safety rotations? You’ve been able to see the full rotation in there. Are you optimistic about their communication and how they’re playing together as a group?
BB: I think there have been a lot of positives and I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. There are a number of things we need to work on and get better at. We had several good plays back there and made some good adjustments. But there were a few we didn’t get that we need to get. One of the good things about working a lot of people is that you get to see a lot of different people and at some point whenever those combinations come back up again and there’s a familiarly. But at the same time, it’s harder for a couple people to just get really good and comfortable with each other as much because of the rotation going on, so we’re trying to balance that out. We’re going to have to make a decision on that here fairly soon down the line on how those rotations are going to go. But it’s a very competitive position and we want to make sure we give everybody a good opportunity and make the best decision we can.
Q: Is the communication and the way two players work together back there sometimes as valuable as the sheer athletic talent a player brings to that position singularly?
BB: Yeah, I think it is at really all those positions down the middle: safety, middle linebacker, center, quarterback. A big part of each of those jobs is communication, working with other people beside you and in front of you, being able to control things from the middle of the field by calls or adjustments or whatever decisions that those respective people have to make. That’s a part of all of those spots. Absolutely, that comes into play. You really can’t play those positions if you aren’t able to effectively do those things.
Q: Is there anybody back there you can mention as being an excellent communicator or anyone that is progressing in that direction?
BB: I think they’re all good. I think part of the difference is obviously confidence and experience. Guys that have done it before, guys that are sure of what they’re doing, can not only make the right decision, but do it with a confidence that everybody immediately reacts to – a decision that is pretty much final. There are other times where you can make the right call, do the right thing, but if it isn’t done with that high level of confidence or sincerity, then that can lead to some indecision even if it’s the right thing. You know how that goes. The confidence you have that comes from experience and doing things right repetitively and knowing that they’re right, you can be more confident in doing it, that’s conveyed to the other people that you’re working with. That’s part of the process that we’re going through. Even if you mean to do the right thing, if you don’t have conviction about it, everybody else isn’t necessarily sure it is the right thing. So that’s all part of it. But I think they all have done that. They’ve all – Tavon [Wilson], even Nate Ebner, they’ve improved a great deal from last year. Adrian [Wilson] has come in here and picked it up. Steve [Gregory] and Devin [McCourty] were here. Duron [Harmon] did that in college and he’s gotten increasingly better and better at it pretty much every time he steps on the field. So I think they’re all improving.
Q: There was an unusual sequence at the end of the half where you had the two field goal attempts and the penalties. I was wondering where you called a time out there?
BB: We substituted. We made a personnel substitution.
Q: Aaron Dobson only got a few early snaps with Tom Brady last night. Was that something to do with him or more just a byproduct of trying to work in a lot of guys in at that position?
BB: I’d say the latter. If the players who played had a different number of plays or participation, then we probably could just substitute his name for somebody else’s name and say, ‘Well, how come this guy didn’t get as many plays?’ I think when it all turned out that we got a lot of plays and we threw a lot of passes in the second quarter, we possessed the ball a lot in the first half and ran almost 50 plays. We got a lot of snaps in the first half and we also got a lot of snaps in the second half. I think we got pretty good – everybody got a pretty good amount of playing time. You can’t control what’s going to happen on those plays – how many opportunities guys are going to get, where the ball’s going to go and so forth. But we had a lot of guys with a lot of playing time at that position and that’s good. They got it this week in practice, got it the week before against the Eagles, so we’ll just keep evaluating the whole group. I think they all got a pretty decent amount of playing time, I mean the guys who played a lot, it was fairly evenly split up.
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