Nick Folk has become somewhat of an enigma during his tenure with the Jets. While he hasn’t been responsible for a team loss, albeit he has come perilously close, there is a common gripe amongst fans who are forced to avert their eyes when he lines up for a field goal attempt or become agitated when his kickoffs don’t meet the standard requirements. It’s always something with kickers.
After two excellent seasons with the Cowboys, which included a Pro Bowl appearance in his rookie year, expectations were high in 2009 and Folk had managed to start off well prior to November 8 in which he had made 82% (14 for 17) of his FG attempts. A disturbing trend emerges from November 15 until the Cowboys pulled the plug on December 19 when Folk missed at least one, if not all, of his field goals per game. During the stretch he only made 36% (4 for 11) of his attempts. Cowboys fans, needless to say, were annoyed by the prospect of dealing with a psychologically damaged kicker but, in reality, Folk was dealing with a serious injury, a laberal tear of the hip, and to make matters worse, he rushed his rehab in order to compete which only served to further aggravate the injury and lead to his departure.
Three years removed from his days in Dallas, by all accounts, Folk has done fairly well in New York. It hasn’t been spectacular, it hasn’t been poor but it has been enough.
Let’s take a look at a breakdown of his missed FGs with Gang Green:
Week 3 (vs. Miami): 61 yards, blocked by Yeremiah Bell
Week 4 (vs. Buffalo): 30 yards, wide left
Week 7 (vs. Green Bay): 37 yards, wide right
Week 9 (vs. Cleveland): 48 yards, wide right; 24 yards, hit upright; 47 yards (in OT), wide right
Week 10 (vs. Houston): 53 yards, short
Week 11 (vs. Cincinnati): 44 yards, wide left
Week 12 (vs. New England): 53 yards, short
Thoughts: After fully recovering from surgery, Folk played his first full-length 16 game season and admittedly it was not pretty at times. Folk struggled early in camp but eventually gained consistency and was named the starter for former incumbent Jay Feely. The 61 yarder at Miami was more for fun than anything as the Jets headed into halftime and to fault Folk for that would be unfair. The Week 4 and 7 misses were concerning though against Green Bay the Jets only managed to get in Packer territory six times, five of which led to turnovers while the sixth was the missed field goal. The game against Cleveland was the only legitimate situation in which Folk could have affected the outcome after missing a 47 yarder in overtime in addition to the handful missed in the regular period which may have prevented overtime to begin with. The 53 yard misses weren’t out of Folk’s territory considering his career high is 56 yards but when you try to kick a, more or less, straight line from 50+ yards, there are no sure things.
Week 8 (vs. Buffalo): 50 yards, wide right
Week 9 (vs. New England): 24 yards, wide left
Week 10 (vs. Denver): 52 yards, wide left; 61 yards, wide left
Week 12 (vs. Washington): 40 yards, wide right
Week 15 (vs. New York): 44 yards, wide right
Thoughts: The 50 yard miss in Buffalo is a bit of a head scratcher considering he went ahead and made a 51 yarder later in the game but again when you start hitting in the 50+ yard range, it tends to be, more often than not, a crapshoot. His kicks in Denver could have potentially tied and/or won the game but the Denver altitude is a bit tricker to manage and he’s not exactly Matt Prater who has been in Denver long enough to know how to go out and kick consistently in that atmosphere. The 24 yard miss in New England was simply embarrassing but in the end so was the entire affair as the Jets were handily beaten by their conference rivals at Gillette.
What it all Means: Though Folk had less attempts in 2011 (Thanks Schotty!) than 2010, his field goal percentage remained relatively unchanged (76.9% in 2010 to 76% in 2011). We do see that in his second season, despite a .9% drop, Folk did show improvement from his initial venture with the Jets and was clearly much better at kicking the ball through the uprights on a more consistent basis.
As with any other position, the Jets have not been afraid to test Folk’s mettle time and time again. First it was Nick Novak and now it’s fellow veteran Josh Brown who, despite his subpar 2011 campaign kicking largely in a dome, does present a legitimate threat to Folk. However, long-time Jets writer Randy Lange does make an interesting observation regarding the veterans.
Under last year’s kickoff rules, Brown had more touchbacks, Folk’s kicks had opponents starting drives slightly closer to their goal lines.
Another kicking angle I threw out in that piece, and again to Folk last week, was the clutch accuracy of both. Folk (94.9 percent) and Brown (90.4) are two of four NFL kickers since 1991 whose career fourth-quarter accuracy is above 90 percent. [Matt Prater (25-26, 96.2) and Stephen Gostkowski (41-43, 95.3) are the leaders].
When you put everything in context Folk certainly doesn’t appear as dark and dismal as he can be made out to be. Does that mean he is the end all to be all? Absolutely not but he hasn’t exactly harmed the team either. Another fun fact: Folk hit 85% (17 for 20) of his FG attempts at the Meadowlands in 2010 and 80% (8 for 10) in 2011.
Folk, for his part, has remained positive throughout and is preparing to push himself to his limits in spite of some early struggles at OTAs and minicamp. If nothing else, we can take solace in the fact that these guys will go out and give everything they have in order to give the Jets the best chance to succeed.
For Folk though, a victory would be just another step in his road to redemption.