Nick Folk was finding the sweet spot all day last Sunday.
Not only did the Jets kicker convert all eight of his placements (two field goals, six PATs), but he drove eight of his nine kickoffs into the end zone and got touchbacks on his first five and six in all. The Bills’ average drive start after those nine kickoffs: Their 20.1-yard line.
“I’ve just kind of been working on it since last year,” Folk said of his Rocky Mountains-like performance down near the sea level of the Meadowlands. “My kickoffs keep getting better and better, and I’m still working on it. You look at a guy like [the 49ers’] David Akers, it’s the same kind of thing. He’s kicking off really well, and he’s in his 13th or 14th year? You just keep getting stronger every year, every day, keep working on the little things to get better.”
Folk, in his sixth season, isn’t nearly the senior citizen Akers is, but he’s putting instep to pigskin as well these days as any of the venerable veteran kickers around the NFL. His kickoff showing wasn’t properly noted in the euphoria of the Jets’ beatdown of the Bills, but it should be observed that his six touchbacks is the most at home by a Jets kicker since the 1970 merger and equals the franchise mark of six, set by Bobby Howfield at New England in 1972 — back when the kickoff line was the 40, not the 35 as it has been since ’11.
“Ah, the perks of playing back in the day,” Folk said.
He attributes his monster season opener not to any lower-body insanity workout program or major technique makeover. Instead, it sounds as if he’s hard at work on mastering the mental part of his game.
“I’ve felt pretty good recently,” he said. “In preseason I think I showed the first two games I could hit some touchbacks. Then in the last two, here and in Philly, I didn’t get a hold of my kickoffs the way I had planned. I was almost trying too hard, trying to kick the ball too hard.
“I hit a line drive against Carolina that shouldn’t have happened. I think I did it right after I made the 46-yarder. I was feeling really good, so ‘Let’s have a good kickoff’. I swung too hard, like a golfer. You get fired up and you bring out the driver. You swing too hard. It’s a good learning process again, some of the minor things you forget from season to season — after a big kick, OK, you’ve got to calm yourself down to kick off, make sure you’re doing all those little things right.”
And this summer’s competition with Josh Brown helped Folk with his inner game.
“Obviously, that always helps, to have them bring someone in of that caliber. It gives you some confidence, pushes you to your limits, pushes you to focus every day,” he said. “I’m still going out there every day, focusing just as hard as I was then, to make sure I’m getting done what I need done, what the team needs done, to get some wins under our belt, and we’re on the right track.”
Next up: The grass of Heinz Field, which should be in very good shape, having not been subjected to Steelers, University of Pitt and high school playoff games for most of the season. Even when it was, the last two times the Jets visited there in 2010, Folk’s kickoffs (from the 30 then) were mostly around the 10, but his seven placements (three FGs, four PATs) were all on the money.
Some deeper kickoffs and equal accuracy will help the Jets do what they need to do in the Steel City.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Bobby Howfield, Buffalo Bills, David Akers, Josh Brown, Nick Folk
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