For more than a decade, the Patriots have been blessed with two steady, reliable, clutch kickers. Adam Vinatieri will go down as one of the greatest of all-time, and Stephen Gostkowski has since stepped in and filled his shoes flawlessly. With that said, how will Gostkowski help the Patriots in 2010?
For starters, Gostkowski had the perfect offseason for a kicker. Despite being a restricted free agent, he never mentioned a word about his contract and seemed perfectly fine with signing his tender and taking the process as it comes. That fits with Gostkowski's laid-back, stay-out-of-the-way mentality that his teammates like about him.
On the field, Gostkowski has been far superior to Vinatieri over the last four seasons, and the Memphis product has been one of the league's most reliable kickers since the 2006 draft. Since entering the league, Gostkowski is tied for sixth with 103 made field goals and fifth in field-goal percentage (85.3) among kickers with at least 120 attempts. He is also second with 513 points scored over that span, and one of just six players in the league with at least 450 points in the last four seasons.
Gostkowski has been brilliantly steady on his field-goal attempts. He knocked home 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) in 2006, 21-of-24 (87.5) in 2007, 36-of-40 (90.0) in 2008 and 26-of-31 (83.9) in 2009. His rookie season percentage slipped due to an uncomfortable 3-for-6 start to his career, but he rebounded by converting all eight playoff attempts, including a game-winner in San Diego.
Gostkowski is also valued for his kickoff ability, and his strength to maneuver and angle the ball is lauded by head coach Bill Belichick. The kicker is a diligent worker who spends the majority of his offseasons at Gillette Stadium, staying in shape and building strength for the next season. Therefore, with everything status quo, there's no reason to believe Gostkowski won't be the same guy in 2010 as he's always been.
Having a reliable kicker isn’t exactly the luxury that it was about 10 years ago — there are just so many good ones nowadays — but the bad ones can doom a franchise, evidenced by the Texans' debacles in 2009. The Patriots have been fortunate in that department for a while, and that will remain the case next season.
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