Nick Folk Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Florham Park, N.J.- The Jets may not be happy about having to settle for field goals five times in their game against Minnesota on Monday night, but they sure are happy about the guy they have kicking them.

Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum took a calculated risk this offseason when they jettisoned kicker Jay Feely from their team and added Nick Folk. The move wasn’t made because the Jets were unhappy with Feely, it was made because of the restrictions that were placed on them during the free agency period due to the ‘Final Eight,’ rule that was put into effect for this uncapped offseason.

With this rule, these teams could only sign a free agent if one of their own free agents were signed by somebody else, so the Jets decided to let Feely sign with Arizona so they could turn around and sign Jason Taylor. So far so good on the decision to go after Taylor, but the other issue that this move caused was now the Jets needed to search for a kicker.

Kicker Nick Folk, provided most of the offensive fireworks for the Jets in their win over Minnesota Monday night. As he went 5-5 on field goals and was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. (Jetsinsider.com Photo).

The kicker is usually an after thought on the football team, but the unfortunate nature of this business is you need to be able to rely on your kicker when needed. A great kicker can definitely be an advantage and help you win games, but it’s usually when a kicker loses a game that they stand out and everyone is sent screaming wondering how an NFL team can’t find someone to kick a football through the uprights.

Nick Folk spent the first three years of his career in Dallas kicking field goals for the Cowboys, before coming over to the Jets after the Cowboys released him. In Folk’s rookie year, 2007, he made 26-31 (83.9 percent) field goals and made all 53 extra point attempts as he was named to represent the NFC as the Pro Bowl kicker.

Folk followed that up with an equally impressive year the following year (90.9 percent), but after his second season he had to have surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip and he rushed his rehab as he went into the 2009 season. This led to a disastrous season for Folk as he struggled making only 64.3 percent of his kicks and he was eventually cut by the Cowboys after he missed a 23-yard field goal in a regular season game against the Saints.

This year he feels much better. When asked if he was feeling 100 percent Folk said, “Oh yeah, feels a lot better than it did last year so, I’m feeling good and I gotta keep rolling.”

So far it looks like the Cowboys loss became the Jets gain as Folk struggled in OTAs, but come training camp Folk had Rex Ryan absolutely giddy about his potential. Ryan often talked about he looked to be back in All-Pro form, but there is obviously a big difference in kicking field goals in training camp practice and kicking them in pressure situations with your team and all their fans counting on you expecting you to make the field goal with relative ease.

If a kicker makes a 30-35 yard field goal, good he should that’s his job, that’s all he has to do, but if he misses it then the fans will rain hell-fire on the kicker’s soul. So far Folk is doing a pretty good job of staying on Jets fans good side as he has hit on 12-14 field goals (85.7 percent), one of those misses was from more than 50 yards out.

It’s never good for an offense when they have to keep settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, but if Folk missed just one of the five field goals he made on Monday night the game could of ended much differently and quite possibly with the Jets losing. So while the Jets would of liked to put up seven points in at least one of their drives, it’s up to Folk to make sure that they get at least three points from the drive and that’s exactly what he did last Monday.

After he gave the Jets an early 3-0 lead, the Jets offense stalled again in the second quarter, but this time the ball was at the 35-yard-line, leaving Folk with a 53-yard attempt. The Jets have never really had a big time clutch kicker to rely on so it’s understandable why fans in the stands were nervous, but Folk embraced the confidence his coach had in him stepped up and drilled the ball directly through the goal posts.

Folk wasn’t surprised he was called on so often this game as he said, “Not really, at the end there it got really wet there really fast and I’m sure that’s really tough to deal with, because I know it’s tough to deal with on my end. But, you know, I couldn’t imagine trying to catch a ball that wet or anything so, they trusted me to get the ball through the uprights and I just have to go out there and try and do that and help the team win.”

That trust he is talking about couldn’t have been more clear after Ryan sent him on the field to attempt the 53-yard field goal. Head games are often what cause problems for kickers and if the players and coaches all have full confidence in a guy that makes his job much easier.

Folk said, “Yeah, he kind of looked at me, I had told everyone I could make it and he, as a defensive coach I think, was thinking ‘let’s pin them in the hole’, which you know I’d think the same thing, but you know, I think he saw that I was pretty confident in what I was going to do and he felt good about it and he let me go out there and just put it through the uprights.”

Folk is rewarding Ryan for his trust and in turn is banking more goodwill for the future. Again the Jets know they have to find ways to score touchdowns, they can’t win every game off of field goals, but it’s always nice to know that when you have to settle your going to get at least three points from the drive.

Five times Folk did that for the Jets on Monday, five times he bailed the struggling Jets offense out and that’s why he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, because despite everything else the Jets did well in that game they don’t win it without the production of Folk.

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