Patriots rookie Chad Ryland’s game-winning field goal against the Denver Broncos on Christmas Eve could be a turning point.

That’s the hope, anyway.

Ryland entered his rookie season with high expectations, having been selected with the No. 112 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft — the highest of any kicker under Bill Belichick. He also beat out incumbent starter Nick Folk, who made nearly 90% of his kicks across four seasons with the Patriots, for the job in training camp.

It just hasn’t gone as smoothly as anyone believed it could.

Story continues below advertisement

The 24-year-old has struggled, and that might be putting it lightly. He entered New England’s matchup with Denver in Week 16 having connected on just 65% of his field goals — with a 35-yard game-tying miss against the New York Giants serving as a rock-bottom moment for the rookie. It even drove some people toward wanting him to be cut.

No Matchup Found

Click here to enter a different Sportradar ID.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

The Patriots brought in some competition but ultimately stuck with Ryland, and that might just be because they’ve sat in this position before.

Ryland isn’t the only rookie kicker to ever have struggles. In fact, there are few who don’t hit multiple rough patches throughout their debut campaigns. That includes some of the very best in New England’s history — Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski.

Story continues below advertisement

In comparing the numbers between all three players, it’s hard to decipher who is who. Vinatieri made a whopping 76.9% of his kicks, with Gostkowski sliding in with a slightly better 77.1%. Ryland is right there at 65.2% following his 56-yard bomb against Broncos, while boasting double the amount of long-range attempts and makes as Vinatieri and Gostkowski.

Sebastian Janikowski, a 2000 first-round pick, made just 68.8% of his kicks during his rookie season. David Akers was cut during his first year, then made just 50% of his kicks as a second-year player for the Philadelphia Eagles. Jason Elam hit 74.3% of his kicks as a rookie.

All of those players went on to earn Pro Bowl bids.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s hard to make drastic assumptions about rookie kickers, so we won’t go and call Ryland a future All-Pro, but we also can’t call him a bust. It’s been a rollercoaster rookie season, but that’s what you expect out of these young legs, and the Patriots honestly couldn’t have asked for a better season to watch him work through struggles.

It’s a waiting game, but at least the history in New England tells us there’s something worth waiting for.

Featured image via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images