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Stock Watch: Who’s up, who’s down after preseason win over Panthers 08.26.16 at 11:57 pm ET
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Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Taking a quick look at who was up and who was down for the Patriots in Friday’s preseason slate against the Panthers:

The Patriots secondary. The New England defensive backs came away with three interceptions on the night, with Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon picking off Cam Newton (twice) and backup Derek Anderson (once).

Tom Brady. The veteran saw his first taste of action this preseason in the first half, and while he was 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown on the night, his energy and enthusiasm was palpable. It’s debatable as to how valuable the work for Brady was — he’ll be on the shelf until Week 5 of the regular season, thanks to You Know Who. But it was a good first step for him.

Chris Hogan. The new receiver, who will likely step into the role that Brandon LaFell had the last two years, showed some impressive quicks and good chemistry. He ended the night with five catches on six targets for 62 yards and a touchdown, and appears to be ready for the regular season.

Third-down defense. The Patriots were excellent when it came to getting off the field, holding Carolina to 1-for-10 on third down to start the night and 5-for-17 overall.

Cyrus Jones. The rookie out of Alabama had a 60-yard punt return that led to New England’s second touchdown of the night, a 12-yard pass play from Jacoby Brissett to DeAndre Carter that came five plays later. In addition, he was part of a New England secondary that shut down Newton. All in all, a good night for the first-year player.

Third-down offense. As good as the third-down defense was, the third-down offense was that bad. Brady delivered a jolt to the New England offense when he entered the game, but the group as a whole smply couldn’t string together extended drives. The Patriots were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, and didn’t connect on third down until Brissett found Carter on a touchdown pass play late in the third quarter. (New England finished 1-for-13 overall.) Truth be told, the inconsistency was an issue throughout, as New England was overly reliant on the defense much of the evening.

Jimmy Garoppolo. If you are stacking his three preseason starts against each other, Friday night’s performance was the roughest of the three. Even with some short fields courtesy of the defense and special teams, Garoppolo was unable to find much offensive traction on the night. He went 9-for-15 for 57 yards and appeared rattled at times in the face of the Carolina defense.

Stephen Gostkowski. One of his missed field goals was likely the result of a bad snap from Joe Cardona, but there was no denying the fact that it wasn’t Gostkowski’s finest hour. He missed a 30-yarder and a 52-yarder. He did connect on a 25-yard attempt in the first half and added a 30-yarder in the second half, but the misses will be a point of emphasis this week.

AJ Derby. The tight end struggled with some drops, and it looked like he might have missed at least one blocking assignment in the first half. (He did have a nice fourth-quarter catch from Brissett.) After a really good performance last week against the Bears that might have cemented his spot as the third tight end, it was a bit of a step back for the youngster.

Red-zone efficiency. The Patriots were just 1-for-4 in the red zone against the Panthers. That was on the heels of a 2-for-5 effort last week against the Bears and a 1-for-3 performance in the preseason opener against the Saints. Maybe that starts to improve when the Patriots have their full collection of offensive options on the field — including Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best red-zone threats in the league. But New England needs to consistently start finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

Read More: AJ Derby, Chris Hogan, Cyrus Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo
Stephen Gostkowski not happy with NFL changing, potentially eliminating kickoffs 08.05.16 at 6:00 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

FOXBORO — Over the last few years, the NFL has tweaked some of the rules as it relates to special teams.

Last year the PAT was pushed back to a 33-yard kick, and this year a touchback now will be at the 25-yard line opposed to the 20.

Gostkowski said he and the Patriots coaches haven’t fully decided how this will change their approach when it comes to kickoffs, but he’s willing to adapt to whatever they choose.

“I haven’t thought too much about it yet. We’ll have to see how it goes,” Gostkowski said. “I’m not as big of a fan of the direction the league seems to be going in. Hopefully, they can come to some kind of agreement where they are not trying to get rid of that play because it’s a great play and obviously half my career is based on that play so I am always going to be for keeping the kickoff in. Hopefully I will be the best at whatever we try and do for our approach for kickoffs, whatever that approach may be.”

The 11th-year kicker is willing to deal with a few tweaks to the rules, but when it comes to kickoffs as a whole, there’s been a push to eliminate the play altogether, which is something Gostkowski adamantly opposes, saying he will do anything in his power to keep the play in the NFL.

“The only thing that bothers me is just the fact that there are rumors of them trying to get rid of kickoffs. That bothers me personally,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about rules and how it affects the way I play — just a lot of people make their spot on the team through special teams and obviously that is the only way I can make an NFL team so I am going to fight and be an advocate for the play as long as I can.

“The adjustments each year, the extra point and the new kickoff, it is what it is. Sitting around moaning and crying about it is not going to get you anywhere, but look bad. I just try and do the best I can with what I have and just adjust on the fly.”

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Read More: 2016 training camp, Stephen Gostkowski, training camp 2016,
Stephen Gostkowski not putting any extra pressure on himself after how last season ended 08.04.16 at 1:37 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

FOXBORO — Last season didn’t end the way Stephen Gostkowski or the Patriots wanted it to.

The Patriots fell 20-18 to the Broncos in the AFC championship game in Denver where they fell a two-point conversion short in the final seconds, which came after they were chasing a point the whole game following Stephen Gostkowski missing an extra point in the first quarter.

Gostkowski, who had made an NFL record 523 straight extra points before the miss, said he isn’t putting any extra pressure on himself going into this year with the way things ended last year.

“I’m always eager to come out and prove myself and have a successful season,” Gostkowski said following Thursday’s practice. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best I can be and go out there and do the best for my teammates. It’s pretty much all I can do year in and year out.”

Gostkowski and the Patriots’ field goal team from last year will return this season after long-snapper Joe Cardona got his Navy service modified so he could play to go along with holder and punter Ryan Allen.

“It’s real nice. Me, Joe and Ryan got together pretty quick last year and had a pretty good season,” Gostkowski said. “Hopefully we can build off that and just be consistent. The name of the game with kicking is consistency and you have to be as consistent as possible. If you go out there and have a bad play you have to pick yourself up and go out for the next one. That’s where it is mentally — when it’s going good it can be really easy. It’s when you have a bad game or a bad kick you have to pick yourself up off the ground and make no excuses and try and make the next one. That is the toughest part of the job.”

Gostkowski is set to begin his 11th season and at 32 years old, he’s the second-longest tenured player on the team, trailing only Tom Brady.

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Read More: 2016 training camp, Stephen Gostkowski, training camp 2016,
Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 15, Stephen Gostkowski 07.07.16 at 11:30 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski's best moment of 2015 was his game-winner against the Giants. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski’s best moment of 2015 was his game-winner against the Giants. (Elsa/Getty Images)

As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.

15. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200
Age: 32 (will turn 33 Jan. 28)

Resume: Since he arrived as a fourth-round pick out of Memphis in 2006, Gostkowski has earned a rep as one of the most dependable kickers in the league. He’s led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, joining Don Hutson and Gino Cappelletti as the only players to lead the league in scoring in five seasons. Gostkowski also surpassed Adam Vinatieri this past season to become the team’s all-time leader in field goals with 276. His 87 percent success rate on field goal attempts is third all-time among kickers with at least 100 career field-goal attempts. A four-time Pro Bowler, he’s twice been named first-team All-Pro, in 2008 and 2015. (He was second-team All-Pro in 2014.) He was also first-team All-NFL last year, according to the Pro Football Writers and Pro Football Focus. While he had an ugly end to the 2015 season — a missed extra-point against the Broncos in the AFC championship game came back to haunt the Patriots in the end — given the body of his work, he’s become a worthy successor to Vinatieri’s legacy.

Why we ranked him here: If there’s a kicker who deserves to be among the top 15 most valuable on his team (other than maybe Baltimore’s Justin Tucker) its Gostkowski. With the exception of last year’s miss against the Broncos — his first missed extra-point in nine years — he’s been the very model of consistency for the franchise over the last decade. He has an extraordinary success rate from anywhere (he’s a career 17-for-22 from 50-plus yards, including the game-winning 54-yarder last year against the Giants), is annually one of the league leaders when it comes to touchbacks, and is tied for fifth among all kickers when it comes to consecutive regular-season games played (80). People will dismiss his standing here because he’s a kicker, but in terms of overall value to the franchise, he’s earned a place in our top 20.

Quote: “Stephen is awesome. I’ve got the utmost respect for him. I think he is a great kicker. … He didn’t miss one all [regular] season long. He missed one extra point the whole season. I wouldn’t hold it too much against him on that. That’s for dang sure. I think he is as good of a guy as you’re ever going to get to kick for your team. You would be fortunate and lucky to have him.” — Adam Vinatieri on Gostkowski in the wake of his missed extra-point in the AFC title game

Random note: While there have been a few fill-ins here and there because of injury, this upcoming season will mark the 20th consecutive year of the Vinatieri-Gostkowski combo. Vinatieri joined the Patriots in 1996, and Gostkowski was drafted by New England in the spring of 2006 after Vinatieri left in free agency.

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Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht says his experience with Patriots sparked decision to draft kicker in second round 05.20.16 at 2:09 pm ET
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Roberto Aguayo was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay.  (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Roberto Aguayo was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tampa GM Jason Licht said he made his notable decision to draft kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round this year in part because of his background with the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

In an interview with, Licht, who made his bones in the New England front office before taking the reins with the Bucs, said that Belichick once asked all his scouts to break down the entire roster in order of value

“None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 — even though he was an excellent kicker,” Licht said. “After we were done, Bill said, ‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he’s a kicker?’ Bill made us ‘rethink that’ and he got his point across. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him?'”

Gostkowski was taken in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Memphis, and has gone on to become one of the better kickers in the league over the last decade.

Licht said his resolve to draft a kicker early was strengthened when he saw Tampa kicker Kyle Brindza miss five field goals and two extra points in consecutive losses to Houston and Carolina last year.

“It was an eye-opening moment for me. I had been around Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski, and those are two of the best,” Licht added. “I know how good of a feeling that is to have a guy like that when you know that a lot of the games are going to come down to field goals — a lot of the games come down to the kicker.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jason Licht, Roberto Aguayo, Stephen Gostkowski
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Special teams 02.22.16 at 6:00 am ET
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Stephen Gostkowski's best kick may have been his game-winner against the Giants. (Jim O'Connor/USA Today Sports)

Stephen Gostkowski‘s best kick may have been his game-winner against the Giants. (Jim O’Connor/USA Today Sports)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’€™ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand and what figures to be the strengths and weaknesses for the team at that position going forward. We’€™ve looked at  the quarterbacks, secondary, the running backs, the linebackers, the wide receivers, the offensive line and the defensive line. Now it’s special teams:

Depth chart: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski (33-for-36 field goals), punter Ryan Allen (46 yards per punt), long-snapper Joe Cardona, kickoff returner Keshawn Martin (10 returns, 257 yards), punter returners Julian Edelman (10 returns, 81 yards) and Danny Amendola (23 returns, 276 yards).

Overview: The Patriots usually have one of the best special teams units in the league, but they did have their share of issues in 2015. They had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and then allowed a punt to be returned for a touchdown in a November loss at home against the Eagles. In the game before that, an overtime loss to the Broncos, undrafted rookie Chris Harper muffed a punt in the fourth quarter, which turned the entire complexity of the game. Then, Gostkowski missed an extra point in the AFC title game, which forced the Patriots to go for a two-point conversion in the closing seconds in the 20-18 loss to Denver.

Besides those specific moments, Gostkowski and Allen had solid seasons. Allen had 42.5 percent of his punts finish inside the 20-yard line, the best percentage in his three years in the league. Gostkowski made the Pro Bowl, but was one of the seven Patriots named to the game who didn’t attend. His biggest kick came against the Giants when he kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired to give the Patriots the win and keep their undefeated season going.

Who will stay? It would appear everyone will return for 2016. When it comes to the return game, Martin signed a contract extension towards the end of the 2015 season and it would seem the Patriots had special teams in mind when making that deal. Martin’s ability to return kicks and punts could take some of the pressure off Amendola and Edelman as they take enough hits as it is catching passes.

Who will go? At this point, it’s unlikely any of the players do not return.

By the numbers: 583 — The number of consecutive extra points Gostkowski made, including the playoffs, before his miss against the Broncos.

Read More: 2016 position-by-position breakdown, Danny Amenedola, Joe Cardona, Julian Edelman
Stephen Gostkowski moving on following missed PAT in AFC title game: ‘I’ve always been good at getting over things’ 02.14.16 at 2:46 pm ET
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One of the most talked about plays in the Patriots’ 20-18 loss to the Broncos in the AFC title game was Stephen Gostkowski‘s missed extra point in the first quarter, a point the Patriots were chasing the rest of the game and needed to go for a two-point conversion in the final seconds.

Speaking to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss earlier this week, Gostkowski explained how he’s moved on and even noted how he moved on in the game quickly, making two kicks after the miss.

“I’€™ve always been hard on myself whenever I have a bad game, especially when we lose. But I’€™ve never once hung my head down,” Gostkowski told Reiss. “You have to have a short memory in this game, but I’€™m always hard on myself for a couple days, even when we win and I have a miskick. It’€™s a perfectionist’€™s job — you strive for perfection. I expect to make every kick, and when I don’€™t, it’€™s very frustrating. I probably practice tens of thousands of kicks for every one I’€™ve tried in a game, and when it doesn’€™t go your way, it can be hard to deal with. But I’€™ve always been good at getting over things and not sulking and letting it mount into one bad kick after the next. I came back and made my next two kicks in the game.

“I just think the way the game ended, at the end of the game, it kind of hit me, and you only have 10 minutes to think about what to say [to the media]. I’€™m the kind of person that would rather take more accountability than none at all. That’€™s just the way I was raised. When things don’€™t go your way, you can either sulk [and] make excuses or take accountability, and that’€™s how I feel I represent myself, my family and teammates in a positive way, even when things don’€™t go my way. That’€™s what I thought about in those 10 little minutes. It hurt because I care and I want to win. But I don’€™t hold my head low. I work hard, I’€™ve done a good job, and things don’€™t always go your way. I’€™m not going to make excuses. I just felt really bad that the season came to an end.”

Gostkowski had made an NFL-record 523 consecutive extra points (regular season) and all 60 extra point kicks in his career in the playoffs prior to the miss.

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