|Bill Belichick looks at bright side of Jimmy Garoppolo and his clock management||08.14.15 at 10:11 am ET|
Preseason football is an ideal time for Bill Belichick to simulate specific game situations and see how his players respond. Clock management under stress is right at the top of that list.
After watching the film of Jimmy Garoppolo from Thursday night, what he saw from his quarterback right before halftime gave him some reason to be very encouraged.
The Patriots stopped the Packers for a third time on fourth down at the Green Bay 49. The Patriots and Garoppolo got the ball back with 53 seconds left before half, trailing 9-8. Garoppolo was able to move the ball down to the Packers 31 before taking what appeared to be a costly sack on second-and-5 with 27 seconds left.
Instead of panicking with no timeouts left, he recognized the situation, ran to the line, clocked the ball with four ticks left, allowing Stephen Gostkowski to kick a successful 56-yard field goal at the gun, giving the Patriots an 11-9 lead at the break.
Belichick broke down the play and why it made him happy to see the second-year quarterback execute.
“I thought all things considered, he did a pretty good job with it,” Belichick said Friday. “We used all our timeouts in the first half. We used a couple of them on defense. I think we lost another timeout right at the end of the half there where the trainers went out onto the field to look at James White so we didn’t have any timeouts, which is a whole other story. We’re out of timeouts. With  seconds, we got sacked. We were trying to run a third down play, which we would’ve needed to get out of bounds on because we’re out of timeouts.
|Ryan Allen not admiring new contract, poised for strong 3rd season in league||08.12.15 at 6:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — Stephen Gostkowski wasn’t the only Patriots special teams player to get a new contract this offseason.
Late last month, the Patriots signed third-year punter Ryan Allen to a three-year contract extension worth $6.1 million.
While the contract was nice for the 25-year-old, now that training camp is fully underway, he isn’t even thinking of it.
“At the end of the day you have to come out here and come through,” Allen said this week. “It’s a matter of production and playing at a high production rate so if you don’t do that — contracts don’t really mean anything at the end of the day. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to play for this organization and with the coaches and players. I’m just looking to get out there and have another good season.”
In 2014 he averaged 46.4 yards per punt over 66 punts with 25 of them inside the 20-yard line with six touchbacks.
There was some irony with both Allen and Gostkowski getting extended in the same offseason, as Allen looks up to Gostkowski and is looking to model his career after him.
“It mostly gives me encouragement and motivation to be the best that I can be and keep improving,” Allen said. “I look up to Steve and the career that he’s had and ultimately that’s what I want. That comes from hard work, that comes with doing your job and being successful and that’s what I want to do.”
Gostkowski is a three-time Pro Bowler, which is something Allen would like to reach one day — be considered at the top of his position.
“Absolutely. At the end of the day I just want to do my job the best that I can,” he said. “Situationally whatever situation is called upon and I am asked to do it, I want to do it to the best of my ability.”
|Stephen Gostkowski on extra point change: Kickers ‘just don’t want to get phased out’||08.08.15 at 1:36 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Life for an elite kicker doesn’t change too much from year-to-year. The job description remains the same, and because of the whole ‘elite’ thing, the stress of job security isn’t too high.
Yet as Stephen Gostkowski enters his 10th NFL season, he is dealing with some adjustments. One is dealing with a new longsnapper, as rookie Joe Cardona is replacing the departed Danny Aiken. For more from Gostkowski on Cardona, click here.
The other major adjustment for Gostkowski is where he does his work. This offseason saw the NFL move its extra point attempts from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line to decrease the success rate of what had become an automatic play.
“It will feel weird going out there,” he admitted. “I’ve been doing the same thing for 15 years, lining up for a one-point kick from the same spot, but I’m sure after two or three games it will be the norm. It’s an adjustment, but nothing crazy.”
To prepare for the change, the Pats have been running game simulations in which they score a touchdown and then bring out the field goal unit for the extra point. They did it three times Saturday and were successful in each of them.
“It’s good work. It might take a little while to get used to, but it’s still a high-percentage makable kick,” Gostkowski said. “I’m going to go out there, attack it and try to make one. I’m confident that I can go out there and put points on the board. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Bill Belichick was not a fan of extra points from the 2 and wanted them moved back. Like Gostkowski, Belichick feels that the kick will still carry a very high success rate, but they do anticipate a dropoff.
“There will be a lot more attempted from [the 15], so there will be more guys missing from that area, but it won’t be such a high amount to where — I still think it will be a very high-percentage made kick, but it’s not going to be 99.6 percent,” he said, referencing a past success rate for the league. “I think it’s enough to where you might get a few a week from different guys, especially late in the year. I’m sure that’s enough to hopefully make them happy enough.”
Gostkowski doesn’t a major problem with the change. He said he enjoys kicking extra points, and that he and his fellow kickers simply hope the change doesn’t result in teams using them less in order to gamble for two points.
“The guys I’ve talked to, they just didn’t want to get phased out to where they’re not very useful to the team,” he said. “This is what we do. This is our job. We want to get to play as much as we want, selfishly. We want to make sure that we’re doing our job to go out there. If they call for an extra point, we want to go out there and kick it. If the league wants them to go for two more, that’s fine, but I still want to be able to go out there and kick a bunch of extra points. That’s just selfishly speaking.”
|With Joe Cardona, Stephen Gostkowski sees why Pats invest draft picks in special teams||at 1:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — This offseason saw long snapper Danny Aiken’s four-year tenure with the Patriots come to an end as the Pats elected to spend a fifth-round pick on Navy’s Joe Cardona.
Cardona is considered one of the best long snapping prospects ever, but his position is not one where teams often invest such draft currency. Other guys have been drafted in the middle rounds (Ryan Pontbriand and Jared Allen were both fourth-round picks in their respective drafts; Allen ended up being better at other stuff), but given the rarity of snappers being taken that high, the pick turned heads.
Stephen Gostkowski said it didn’t surprise him, however.
“It does happen,” he said of long snappers getting picked. “If you find one good, grab him. We don’t make those decisions. That’s just for people who think they know everything about football to complain about.”
Gostkowski probably heard from those folks a bit back in his day. While kickers get drafted often and Gostkowski was the first at his position taken back in 2006, there was no perceived ace kicker in his class. In fact, Gostkowski wasn’t even ranked as the top kicker in his class by ESPN and many other prognosticators.
As such, Gostkowski doesn’t seem to consider himself a fourth-round pick, but rather someone who got drafted to the surprise of some, just like Cardona.
“Well, I was the first kicker drafted, but I don’t think I was rated very high going into the draft,” he said. “I didn’t get invited to the combine.”
Gostkowski proved to be a slam-dunk of a pick, while Matthew Slater (fifth-round, 2008) has been a three-time All Pro and four-time Pro-Bowler as a special teams ace. The Pats invested a second-round pick this offseason in safety Jordan Richards, who initially made his bones in college as a special teamer.
Being a drafted kicker could give a player a sense of security, but after nine years in the league, Gostkowski says he’s never gotten overly comfortable. He’s grateful that he and the Pats were able to resolve his future contract situation with a four-year, $17.2 million deal.
“No matter where you’re at in your career, you’re going to have to prove yourself and that’s the approach I take,” he said. ‘The business side of things are handled by the business guys. I just come out here and try to play. I always have high expectations. I put high pressure on myself no matter what. I’m just excited. I’m glad to be here and it’s nice to know I’m not going to have to uproot my family after next year, which is cool.
“You never feel 100 percent secure, especially in your first four or five years,” he added “You only get so many plays a game, and all it takes is a couple bad games for teams to start looking for someone else. You just try your best to give them no reason to get rid of you. The few times I have struggled, the team’s always [had] my back. If you play long enough, you’re going to have bad games, bad plays. The good ones get over it faster. I don’t know why I’ve been here so long. I just try to show up and do my job and do it well.”
|Countdown to camp: Special teams||07.30.15 at 1:46 pm ET|
As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the offensive side of the ball and then the defense, now we close with special teams.
Depth chart: Kicker- Stephen Gostkowski, Punter- Ryan Allen, Long snapper- Joe Cardona
THREE THINGS WE KNOW
1. Gostkowski is one of the best. In 2014 he hit 35 of his 37 field goal attempts for a career-high 94.6 percent mark, leading to his third Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro honor. He also led the league in scoring with 156 points, booted 53 kickoffs for touchbacks (tied for fifth most in the league) and hit all 51 PATs he attempted. He was rewarded with a new four-year contract extension worth $17 million after being hit with the franchise tag earlier in the offseason.
2. New coaching staff. After Scott O’Brien’s retirement following last season, there will be a new face leading the unit. Joe Judge will take over as the special teams coach and the team hired former Patriot Ray Ventrone as his assistant. Judge served as O’Brien’s assistant for each of the last few seasons, so he is used to the system. Although O’Brien is gone, it would appear much of what he preached will still be implemented. The players who have spoken so far seem excited to work with the new coaches.
3. New long snapper in town. The Patriots moved on from long snapper Danny Aiken and drafted Cardona out of Navy in the fifth-round, the highest-drafted long snapper in NFL history. His Naval assignment has been delayed until after the 2015 NFL season so that he will be able to play for this year and possibly beyond. It appears from the spring he has developed a good connection with Gostkowski and Allen.
|Why Patriots reportedly extended kicker Stephen Gostkowski when they did||07.15.15 at 3:45 pm ET|
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed a franchise tender on March 6, paying him $4.59 million for the 2015 season, which would have been the second-highest salary for a kicker all-time.
After Wednesday, the Patriots and Gostkowski could not negotiate a new contract during the season and he would become a free agent after next season.
With the 31-year-old being one of the better kickers in the game — connecting on 35 of his 37 field goal attempts for a career-high 94.6 percent mark, leading to his third Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro honor last season — he would seemingly get heavy interest from other teams next offseason for top dollar.
With that in mind, the Patriots reportedly extended Gostkowski with a four-year deal worth about $17 million on Wednesday.
Gostkowski will be paid in the ballpark of $4.25 million each of the next four years (according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss), which is still the highest in the league, but it could have been even more if the Patriots didn’t extend him now. The team will save at least $314,000 this year with his new deal and if they were to have franchised him again next season, that number would jump 20 percent and would have been $5.33 million.
It’s also worth noting, extra points will be moved back to the 15-yard-line, so having a kicker as dependable as Gostkowski is, will be even more important than ever.
Many will point out the Patriots moved on from Adam Vinatieri at similar point in his career, but they aren’t the same situation. Vinatieri wasn’t brought back after his age 33 season and things were different then because the Patriots likely had Gostkowski on their radar via the draft and also Vinatieri was two years older than what Gostkowski is now.
While the Patriots are paying their kicker a fairly expensive amount, long-term it will likely turn out to be a financially smart move with kickers’ value expected to rise with the new rule changes.
The sides were working to beat a 4 p.m. deadline, at which time Gostkowski would have been locked in to playing under the one-year, $4.59 million franchise tender he signed in March.
Gostkowski, 31, has played nine seasons for the Patriots since being drafted out of Memphis in 2006 to replace Adam Vinatieri. In 2014 he hit 35 of his 37 field goal attempts for a career-high 94.6 percent mark, leading to his third Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro honor. He also led the league in scoring with 156 points, booted 53 kickoffs for touchbacks (tied for fifth most in the league) and hit all 51 PATs he attempted.
In his career he sits at 86.8 percent on field goals.
The second-longest-tenured player on the team (behind Tom Brady), Gostkowski became the franchise’s career scoring leader last season, passing Vinatieri. He has 1,179 points in 136 career games.
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