Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen give Patriots stability on special teams
|08.11.14 at 11:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The kicker and punter positions are the two most cutthroat in the game. Due to the nature of the positions and quantity of players coming out of college and into the league, it is not uncommon for a kicker or punter to have one poor week and get cut the next.
The Patriots are in a unique position as they only have one kicker and one punter at training camp — this speaks to the confidence they have in punter Ryan Allen and kicker Stephen Gostkowski as this marks the first year since Zoltan Mesko‘s rookie season in 2010 where the Patriots have just one kicker and one punter at training camp.
With no other kicker at camp and Gostkowski entering his ninth year in the league, all coming with the Patriots, he might feel at ease in terms of a roster spot, but even for Gostkowski that isn’t the case.
“If they bring someone in or they don’t, it is no different for me,” he said. “You have to kick well to make the team whether they bring someone in or not. I don’t think someone here is going to make me approach my job any differently. They could bring 10 guys in and I would be confident in what I need to do to get ready.”
For Allen, he came in as a rookie last season out of Louisiana Tech University and beat out Mesko for the job after he punted with the Patriots for three straight seasons. Allen too knows just because there aren’t any other punters at camp, it doesn’t mean his job is safe.
“No, not really because at the end of the day all it takes is a couple of calls and they can have a guy here in a heartbeat,” Allen said. “Whether there is another guy in here competing with you or not, I don’t really look at it like that. You can lose your job at anytime with poor performance and our job is about consistency and give our team the best opportunity when it comes to special teams.”
Gostkowski has emerged as one of the best kickers in the league. Last season he led the NFL in points with 158, which also was the most ever in a single season by a member of the Patriots. The kicker hit on 38-of-41 field goals and the 92.7 percent success rate was the second-best in team history, only trailing Adam Vinatieri‘s 93.9 success rate in 2004.
Although it may get tiresome day-after-day, kicking over and over again with nothing on the line, training camp is where Gostkowski lays the foundation down for each upcoming season.
“There all the same. We have one job to do — come out here and be as consistent as we can be,” Gostkowski said of training camp. “We just try and work hard to get better everyday. Sometimes it is tough during training camp when it is day after day, but that is where you build mental toughness and confidence to go into the game. You have to go out there everyday and show you can get the job done. It is nice to get some of the kinks out and some of the bad things during training camp and show the coaches why they brought you back.”
Allen had a solid rookie campaign as he averaged 45.9 yards per punt and had 29 of his 76 punts finish inside the 20-yard line. The rookie also served as the holder for Gostskowki on field goal attempts. Allen uses the preseason to get as prepared as he can for what is to come once the real games begin.
“Preseason is a great opportunity to be in a game environment — to be in a stadium and to go through your progression,” said Allen. “It’s a mock game pretty much and you should take it for everything that you can because that is preparation for going into the regular season. It is very important. We do a lot of situational stuff which is very important and makes when stuff happens in games a lot more comfortable instead of getting caught off guard.”
Coming off a career season, one would think Gostkowski would want to be even better, but the 30-year-old isn’t one to set goals, especially kicking in New England — one of the most difficult and unpredictable teams to be a kicker on due to the variety of weather conditions the team has to contend with.
“It is a game-by-game kind of thing and we just try and play the different situations,” he said. “Our biggest enemy is probably the weather and kicking in a place like New England — it’s more of a game-by-game type of thing — I don’t set many goals. I just try and make each kick that I get. I don’t let one missed kick lead to two.”
The same goes for Allen — he doesn’t set many goals as the less time he spends on the field punting, naturally the better the team is likely to be doing. Allen just wants to make sure he does everything in his power to help the team win when he does have to step on the field.
“It’s very situational,” he explained. “I want to be prepared for any situation that comes up in a game and to be able to execute it — whether it’s bad weather, a tougher situation for me — you don’t have the easiest way out every single time and you need to be prepared for that. You need to execute it at the highest level. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter about the stats — you did what you were asked to do and gave your team a better chance of winning and that is the most important thing.”