There’s an old saying that “if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback.” While that particular position is no concrete problem for the New England Patriots at the moment — at least on paper and with Cam Newton having won the starter role in training camp — another one falling under a similar category could be: place kicker.
New England, of course, currently has no kicker on its active 53-man roster. Both fifth-round rookie Justin Rohrwasser and in-camp veteran re-signee Nick Folk were let go over the weekend as part of final cutdowns before eventually being brought back via the practice squad. With the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins just five days away, though, both men remain on the developmental team for the time being.
Bill Belichick does not see the lack of a clear number one kicker as a problem, though.
“You just try make the best decisions we can on that,” the Patriots head coach said during a media conference call on Monday while discussing his team’s kicker situation. “We’re fortunate we have two players at that position that are, I’d say NFL quality. Similar to the quarterback position, we’re fortunate to have depth in those spots and those are good ones to have them in.”
The Patriots are in an unprecedented situation when it comes to Rohrwasser and Folk. The NFL’s new practice squad rules, as previously discussed, allow teams to promote up to two players to the active roster each week to increase it from 53 to 55 men. Those two players would then automatically revert to the practice squad following the game without having to be exposed to waivers or the open market.
There are some limitations to this plan — an individual player can only be brought up twice a year using this method and not in back-to-back weeks — but the Patriots could very well opt to use it to address the kicking situation early in the season.
Of course, there is no telling what New England will eventually do between now and the potential end point of a two-kicker system after Week 4 (when neither kicker would be eligible to be promoted again if the Patriots go Folk-Rohrwasser-Folk-Rohrwasser as practice squad call-ups). The team could also simply decide to move forward with the best available option, and add him to the active roster at a sooner point while not using a rotational approach.
Based on training camp, it is likely that Nick Folk will be that player.
“Nick came in last year in the middle of the season,” Belichick said about the 36-year-old. “I think anytime you kick in New England in November and December you see a difference in the way the ball travels, not necessarily leg strength but the results of the kick are a little bit different in November and December than they are in August. So, I’d say it’s a little hard to tell just because the conditions are so different.
“Nick’s come in and obviously done a good job with us as we’ve put him on the practice squad and want to continue to work with him. We’ll just take it from there and see how it goes. He’s done a good job and hit the ball well. Justin has as well. There’s a big experience gap here, but that’s not uncommon either.”
With Stephen Gostkowski released in March, the Patriots actively embraced a new direction at the position. Half a year later and with the regular season looming it has not yet manifested himself, however, and Belichick’s statements and his team’s actions do not necessarily clear things up either.
New England did create two open roster spots on Monday by placing running back Damien Harris and defensive tackle Beau Allen on injured reserve, but filled the spots by promoting running back J.J. Taylor and linebacker Cassh Maluia from the practice squad. For the time being, New England is therefore still headed for unconventional territory.