The offense and defense tend to hog the headlines, but special teams plays often turn out to be deciding factors in who heads home with the win on gamedays.
Mike Westhoff served as the special teams coordinator for the Jets from 2001-12, but he retired this offseason and Ben Kotwica took over the troops.
For the fourth year in a row, the Jets have delegated the kicking role to
“I think Nick did an excellent job,” Kotwica said of Folk's training camp. “He knocked in a couple of 50-yarders in the preseason and really did a tremendous job.”
Despite feeling like he had a better field goal kicking camp last year, the seventh-year veteran said the number of times he would have used a mulligan can be counted on one hand.
“I think throughout the entire training camp and preseason, I want back that one kick in the Giants game and maybe one other kick throughout the course of camp,” Folk said. “I felt like I hit most of my balls pretty solidly, pretty well, all camp.”
He hit three of four preseason kicks, including a 51-yarder at Detroit and a 54-yarder at home vs. Jacksonville. He was extremely satisfied, however, with his ability to limit the opposition’s return opportunities with touchbacks.
“Kicking off, I think it was my best camp,” he said. “I think if you had 100 kickoffs in the year, the coaching staff would take 100 touchbacks. Their average starting field position would be the 20-yard line, and it’d be really good.”
He managed to force the other team to settle for a touchback five times on 12 preseason kickoffs but also drove 11 of those kickoffs into the end zone.
Folk entered training camp battling with fellow Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff for a spot on the Jets’ 53-man roster. On Aug. 27, the Jets let Cundiff go, but brought in another Pro Bowler, Dan Carpenter, to keep the competition alive.
By Saturday, Nick Folk stood alone as the only the only kicker on the roster. But even then, he didn’t feel like he could finally exhale and relax.
“You can’t do it,” he said. “There are still so many good kickers out there, young guys who are still vying for jobs, vying for spots. I think that goes not only for my position but for anyone.”
The pressure brought about in a 1-on-1 competition has changed form, not gone away. “I think everyone in this room puts pressure on themselves to succeed,” Folk said, “and if everyone in this room is succeeding, then we’re going to succeed as a group.”
But as the pressure rises, his performance does, too. In the fourth quarter of all regular- and postseason games since 1991, his 93.3% kick accuracy (42 for 45) ranks second behind the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski. And he’s a perfect 3-for-3 from 50 yards or more in those scenarios.
“If you date back to the kickers we brought in to compete with him,” Kotwica said, “whether it was Nick Novak a few years ago or Josh Brown last year, Billy Cundiff and Dan Carpenter, all four of those guys are on NFL rosters if I’m tracking. And Nick has kicked his best during those times. I’m excited to watch him kick on Sunday and throughout the year.”
“I’m going out there and I’m just going to kick well, kick smooth, get in a good groove, a good rhythm with Rob [Malone] and Tanner [Purdum] and those guys and do what I can to help this team win,” Folk said, “because I think winning cures everything.”
*Special Teams Saturday