It may say something about the exclusive fraternity of NFL placekickers or the increasingly interwoven pro football storylines, but Nick Folk and Josh Brown got together this year before they were brought together formally as competitors for the Jets’ kicking job.
“We worked out in San Diego this offseason before this whole thing even went down,” Folk said of the signing of Brown early last month. “We picked up some things from each other, just by working with each other out there, then this happened. We’ve been good ever since. We’ve been pretty close, helping each other out. It’s been good so far and I think it’ll just get better come training camp.”
You might think Folk is guarding his words now that he’s facing some serious competition for his job from a kicker who is just as skilled and more experienced. But that’s not the way Nick rolls.
“He’s going to push me to the limit. He’s doing a great job. He’s been to the Super Bowl, had a bunch of great years in a row,” Folk said. “Having him here is good. We’re having a good time out there, which I think is important for everyone.”
In truth, as a sidebar to Rex Ryan IV, Sanchez/Tebow, Tony Sparano coordinating the offense and the Mike Pettine defense looking to rediscover its swagger, Folk vs. Brown should be a dandy Cortland competition in a little over a month.
Shortly after Brown arrived, we chatted in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. In that story I put together a “tale of the instep” chart that showed how evenly matched this kick-off could be. Folk’s a little bigger, Brown’s older. Brown’s leg seems slightly stronger, Folk’s had far fewer kicks blocked in his career. Under last year’s kickoff rules, Brown had more touchbacks, Folk’s kicks had opponents starting drives slightly closer to their goal lines.
Another kicking angle I threw out in that piece, and again to Folk last week, was the clutch accuracy of both. Folk (94.9 percent) and Brown (90.4) are two of four NFL kickers since 1991 whose career fourth-quarter accuracy is above 90 percent.
“That’s not bad,” Folk agreed, then added, “You tell me all these things, then I start thinking about it, you know?”
Yeah, we know. But Folk also thinks about his crunch-time kicking quite a bit on his own, which has informed how he prepares in general for each season.
“I try to put myself in that situation as much as I can when I’m training,” he said. “I don’t know how other guys do it, but I just try to get myself mentally focused for that type of situation. That way, when it comes to that, it’s take a deep breath and let’s go have some fun,”
Specifically, the one-time Cowboy who was born in Hollywood, Calif., hasn’t been trading on his celebrating while training. He said this year he’s been concentrating on his right leg velocity.
“I’ve worked a little bit more this offseason on leg speed to complement my strength,” he said. “You’ve got to have that quickness in there, too. I’ve worked on a lot of leg speed, a lot of explosive stuff.”
Folk and Brown have been having fun so far, and Folk says that has nothing to do with tough-love special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff being away from practices after his latest left leg surgery.
“I haven’t seen Mike since it happened,” Folk said. “He’s trying to get his leg rehabbed so he can come back full-strength to training camp. And from what I hear, he’s doing a real good job. I wish him all the best. He’s a great coach. I have a lot of respect for him. And I think he’ll be excited to get back on the football field and get us all going in the direction he wants us to go.”
But while Westhoff was away, Ben Kotwica took over “teams” coordination at the OTAs and full-squad minicamp.
“Ben’s done a great job doing what Westy does,” Folk said. “I think the guys have responded really well to Ben and Ben’s responded well to the guys. It’s good for Mike to not be out here on his leg so he can actually rehab it. He trusts Ben to get it done and Ben’s been doing a great job.”
Then in five weeks in upstate New York, Folk and Brown will push each other to the limit.
Tags: Ben Kotwica, Josh Brown, Mike Westhoff, minicamp, Nick Folk, training camp
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