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STS*: ‘Phenomenal’ Folk Embracing the Pressure

Posted by Randy Lange on October 27, 2012 – 10:09 am

There have been plenty of highs and lows so far through the first seven weeks of the Jets’ season.

But possibly the least-talked-about positive has been the perfect start from kicker Nick Folk.

“He has been phenomenal,” head coach Rex Ryan said this week. “There are a lot of areas that we can improve in. Kicking is not one of them. The guy has been absolutely phenomenal.”

Just like a season ago, Folk has once again started 11-of-11 on his field goal attempts.

“I’ve had some pretty good starts,” Folk said Friday. “I just have to try and keep it rolling. I feel like I’m hitting the ball really solidly and trying to keep improving every day on the little things.”

The sixth-year pro is coming off a 4-of-4 performance Sunday during the Jets’ 29-26 overtime loss at New England. In that game, he connected on a 54-yarder, which trimmed the Patriots’ lead to 16-10 at the intermission, and later in a 29-second span hit a pair of 43-yarders, one to tie the game at 23-all and the next to give the Jets a three-point lead with 1:37 left in regulation.

“I mean, it felt good, but at the same time you know, we didn’t get the win,” the kicker said. “Like when we beat Indy and I just kicked a bunch of extra points, I’d take that. I just want to win. I think we’ll keep getting better and keep improving every week and we’ll do well this Sunday.”

The Jets will host the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. The teams already met this season back on Sept. 23. Jets All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending ACL injury during the third quarter, yet the Green & White still were able to overcome adversity and exit Sun Life Stadium with a 23-20 overtime victory. With 6:04 remaining in the extra session, Folk converted the game-winning 33-yard FG.

“We pulled together when Reve got hurt,” he said. “The team kind of battened down the hatches and played well at the end there. I think we played our best football at the end of that game, so it was a good way to end the game. It kind of stunk we had some guys get hurt, but that’s football and I think guys are rallying around each other right now and doing a good job.”

Folk kept his job as the Jets kicker this season, but it wasn’t easy as he beat out former Rams kicker Josh Brown in a tight competition during training camp. At the time, special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff called the competition between the kickers the best he’d witnessed in his coaching career. Ryan also was amazed.

“I thought those guys really pushed each other,” the fourth-year head coach said, “but when you look at the end result, there is nobody kicking better than Nick because he’s made every kick.”

Over the course of Folk’s career, he is an astonishing 41-of-43 (95.3%) on fourth-quarter field goal attempts, including the playoffs. That percentage is second-best among all NFL kickers in the fourth quarter since 1991 with at least six tries.

“I think most kickers should live for it. I do,” Folk said of kicking in the clutch. “I embrace the pressure. I don’t try to shun it away. I just try to have fun with it and just kind of keep it rolling.”

And while his fourth-quarter numbers surely speak for themselves, Folk said he doesn’t pay attention to the stats.

“I’m just trying to do my job and when it comes down to that time, that’s when they’re most important,” he said. “So I just try to be my best at the end, and you kind of want to be your best at all times, but that’s when it really matters, and I’m trying to keep an even keel at the end of the game, when everything is on the line. Just trying to do well, hit the ball solidly and have a good end.”

No. 2 for the Green & White stated that he’s been pleased with his kicking production not just during games this season but also through practices. He said the primary thing the team is focused on is trying to reach 3-1 in the AFC East and 4-4 overall, heading into their bye week.

It’s obviously uncertain whether Folk will continue his impressive streak as the season progresses, but if he can stay healthy there’s always a chance.

“I think that’s a big thing,” Folk said. “Don’t get tired, make sure you’re watching the amount of kicks you’re doing in practice, keep your leg strong, but don’t get too tired to where you’re overkicking, and mentally stay into it. I think those are the two biggest things. Just stay strong and stay healthy and stay mentally focused for every kick.”

*Special Teams Saturday

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STS*: 6 Touchbacks Showed Folk’s Focus on Details

Posted by Randy Lange on September 15, 2012 – 10:14 am

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

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Brown Released, Folk Takes K Job; 5 Waived

Posted by Randy Lange on August 27, 2012 – 2:57 pm

Updated, 3:15 p.m. ET

Nick Folk, the winner and still champeen.

With the Jets’ announcement that Josh Brown had been released today as the team reduced its roster to one under the 75-player maximum, Folk has prevailed as the Jets placekicker after kicking for his job for the second straight preseason.

Last year he outdueled journeyman Nick Novak. This offseason Brown, the long-ball veteran with Rams and Seahawks experience, figured to provide even stiffer competition. And he did. But after Nick went 3-for-3 against the Panthers while Brown went 1-for-2 with a miss from 45 yards out (albeit after Kenrick Ellis’ false start moved the kick 5 yards back), the decision by head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff was made.

But the Panthers game wasn’t the only input. The training camp competition up at SUNY Cortland and back in North Jersey was close, and I don’t have any official or unofficial tally, but on most days when the two alternated two kicks at a time, moving 2 to 3 yards back with each kick, Folk seemed to have the edge on many days.

Now the key will be how Nick kicks all season long. As Westhoff told me back in late July at the start of camp about Folk vs. Brown, “It’ll be an interesting battle. Josh is a very viable candidate and makes for a very competitive kicking competition. It’s a good battle. They’re both pretty good. They can do it. And I think we needed that situation because Nick’s inconsistencies are frustrating.”

An example of that was Folk’s 24-yard miss on the opening drive of the Jets’ home loss to the Patriots last season.

“Now, can he turn around and make the kick that beat the Colts and go to the next playoff game? Yes. But you can’t miss that. That’s disappointing,” the coach said. “To his credit, we put him in a competitive situation. He’s fighting right now, he’s doing well. It’s a good, honest competition.”

The samples are not significant, so take this for what it’s worth, but every one of the previous three preseasons, in 2009 with Dallas and 2010-11 with the Jets, Folk missed at least one preseason field goal try from under 50 yards. In ’10, one of his misses was a 62-yarder, but he also was wide from 46 and on a point after. Last summer he missed from 43 and 52.

This summer, of course, he had no PAT tries. But he was 4-for-4 on his FG tries, from 22, 30, 38 and 46.

Five Other Moves

The Jets also waived five players, including FB-TE Josh Baker, who suffered a serious knee injury in the second quarter vs. the Panthers and was waived/injured. Also cut were WRs Stanley Arukwe and Wes Kemp, RB Jeremy Stewart and LB Damario Ambrose.

This year’s final cutdown to 53 players on each team’s active/inactive list is this Friday (all NFL games will be played Wednesday and Thursday) by 9 p.m. ET.

Austin Plaudits

There was general praise for Austin Howard in his first right tackle starting assignment for the Jets on Sunday night.

“I thought Austin had a nice game for us,” said head coach Rex Ryan.

“I was just proud of our offensive line,” said Mark Sanchez, who was taken down once on a coverage sack in 2½ quarters Sunday vs. three non-coverage sacks in two quarters vs. the Giants. “I was proud of the way Austin Howard competed. That’s not an easy spot to jump into.”

Howard is a man of few words and most of them modest. He hit all the right notes about “I feel like I’m progressing and we’re progressing as an offense” and “We have to watch the film.”

“This opportunity has been a huge blessing,” he said. “I’m so grateful to be out on the field with the veterans and to go out and play the game. I feel it’s been a progression since my first start.”

That’s something many may not know or realize. Howard had a start for the Eagles at LT in the final preseason game in 2010 — against the Jets, of course — and had one regular-season start, in the ’10 season finale for the Birds vs. the Cowboys.

Here’s one other interesting fact about Howard from the Panthers game: He was the only Jet to play in 100 percent of his unit’s plays. The offense was on the field for 69 plays on Sunday and so was Howard. And add in the six special-teams plays he appeared in and the big guy from Davenport, Iowa, led the Jets last night with 75 snaps. Next-most plays? TE Dedrick Epps with 58 plays, 57 on offense.

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Garrett McIntyre Savors His Tebow Takedown

Posted by Randy Lange on August 1, 2012 – 1:54 pm

Garrett McIntyre knows his pelt in the twos-vs.-twos red zone period at this morning Jets training camp practice is not one to hang on his wall. But he still took a little satisfaction out of “sacking” Tim Tebow in the drill.

“I actually had a chance to sack Tim in the game last year — a real chance — and he made me look bad,” the second-year linebacker said, referring to last year’s 17-13 loss in Denver. “So I know his ability to make people miss. He’s strong. Anytime you can get your hands on him, you feel good, but it’s got to be a collective defensive thing, it’s not one guy, because he’ll make one guy miss.”

McIntyre didn’t miss this time. The second defensive front got good pressure and forced No. 15 to improvise, right into the arms of No. 50, who was coming off the defense’s right edge and pushing back LT Austin Howard.

“It’s just understanding the rush lanes,” Mac said, “knowing that Tebow’s going to scramble a lot and you can’t just run up the field on him. Our goal as a front, especially if we’re rushing four, is to contain him, which is not easy. I just came under. I don’t know who was on the other side but they did a good job of flushing back to me.”

Later in that same drive, McIntyre put a lick on Terrance Ganaway that knocked the rookie RB to the grass. The hit looked and no doubt felt good but drew a mild rebuke from head coach Rex Ryan, since this was not a full-tackling drill.

“You’ve got to treat each other well,” he said. “I was kind of off balance a little bit so I happened to fall on him. We like to be physical on this side of the ball, but we also like to take care of the other guys. We’re teammates, so that’s why I’m looking forward to Cincinnati.”

Some might think McIntyre’s a bubble ‘backer but he rightly feels a lot more comfortable this summer than he did last year, when he was a first-year NFL player who had been to three NFL camps and played for two years with the Arena League’s SabreCats and two years with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger Cats.

“That probably would’ve been my last shot with the NFL. I would’ve gone back to Canada. I had a job waiting for me up there,” he said. “Now, I do, I believe I belong in this league. I just had to get in first. That’s the hardest part, especially the second time. The best chance you have is coming right out of college, then very rarely you get opportunities after that. So I’m blessed to just have gotten an opportunity and now I’m going to make the best out of it.”

Tempo and Soft Tissue

Santonio Holmes was the latest Jet — in fact their latest WR — who has had to sit out some reps. A little gimpy in previous days. Holmes was on the sideline for the first offense’s two-minute drill at the end of practice.

“Santonio was just one of those soft-tissue type of things,” said head coach Rex Ryan at today’s midday news conference. “That’s why it’s fortunate. They’re not major injuries. But those things keep adding up and we’re trying to figure out why.”

There have been more hamstring/calf-type pulls this year than in previous summers, so this morning’s return after Tuesday’s off-day began with a 20-minute stretching period before practice. Ryan and OC Tony Sparano have talked about the wideouts, who’ve been the hardest-tweaked, and one possible reason for the minor injuries is Sparano’s up-tempo approach, which often this camp has resulted in the Jets getting in twice as many plays in a particular period as they had originally scripted it for.

“I’m not saying anything against what we did in the past, but we were not even close to this kind of tempo,” Ryan said. “But this is who we are offensively, and that’s not going to change. We’re not slowing up. This isn’t just great for our offense but it’s great for our defense. A lot of no-huddle teams gain an advantage because the other teams aren’t working at that level. And I think we are.”

Practice Notes

Vlad Ducasse was another injury concern, but the third-year man said he feels fine after playing LG, hitting the turf, then limping off. Ducasse also played a few reps at RG for the first time this camp, part of the Ryan/Tony Sparano/Dave DeGuglielmo push to get their O-linemen familiar with multiple positions.

In general Vlad says camp is going well, including GM Mike Tannenbaum’s description of him as “a young, ascending player.” “It always gives you confidence every time they talk positively about you. It makes you want to push yourself to get better every day,” he said. “This year I put a lot of pressure on myself to show something, so we’ll see.”

Could this be one of the key days in the kicking competition? For the in-practice FG period, Nick Folk hit from 35, 37, 44 and 46, Josh Brown from 39, 41, 47 and 49. Then Folk nailed a 51-yarder but Brown banged his 51-yarder high off the right upright. Then in the two-minute period, Mark Sanchez rescued his drive with a third-and-long completion to Dustin Keller to set up a Folk 51-yard “game-winner,” which he drove through. … Antonio Allen had his third INT in two practices on an off-line fade into the end zone from Tim Tebow for Dexter Jackson.

Rex Cetera

Veteran reporters and fans who followed the Jets more than a decade ago could be forgiven if they had a flashback this morning. On the sidelines and then walking off in close proximity to each other today were Aaron Glenn and Laveranues Coles. Glenn, the Jets’ Pro Bowl CB, is now a pro personnel assistant with the Jets. Coles, the 459-catch WR for the Green & White, is a pro personnel intern this summer. The two went up against each other during the ’00 and ’01 training camps back at Hofstra University.

S Tracy Wilson was waived this morning. The roster is now at 86 players. … Ryan said Saturday night’s Green & White scrimmage will be held for the first time in Cortland Stadium, on the school’s new turf field. “We’re going to put it in the stadium and the fans will get a better view,” Ryan said. “In the past we held these on the grass fields, but now the turf field’s so nice that we think we can do that. I think it’ll be a good experience for the fans and it’ll be a great experience for us.” … Today’s attendance: 2,361.

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Hill Brings a Thrilling Reception to Revis Island

Posted by Randy Lange on July 27, 2012 – 3:44 pm

Updated, 10:04 p.m. ET

Stephen Hill’s first training camp visit to Revis Island went swimmingly.

Hill, the second-round WR from Georgia Tech, got past Darrelle Revis for a Mark Sanchez deep ball early in today’s first practice of training camp at SUNY Cortland. He got the full Revis treatment — tight trailing coverage, then, with the ball in the air, a sublte, timely forearm to the side. As the two started to tumble, No. 24 batted the ball away, or it so it seemed. But somehow, No. 84 latched onto the gyrating leather and cradled it as they hit the grass together for, oh, a 40-yard play.

“Basically I saw the way he was playing me and I just tried to box him out to make the catch as much as I could,” Hill said. “Oh, yeah, definitely it was exciting. That was my first play of training camp.”

And did the top corner in the game say anything to the raw but riveting rookie?

“Yeah, he said, ‘Good catch. Next time you ain’t going to get it,’ ” Hill said.

Hill may not make a circus catch over Revis again, but it seems possible he could put together a parade of catches for a rookie highlight video.

“Young, fast,” head coach Rex Ryan captured Hill in two words, then offered up a few more for emphasis. “The most impressive thing today, there was the catch over Revis even though Revis had great coverage. But on a running play, I saw a block and I saw a corner go down.”

That, too, was Hill on Revis, although the rookie admitted he gave the corner a shove on the play when Revis had already lost his balance.

“It was Revis? All right,” Rex said with a smile. “I guess with that Georgia Tech background, Hill probably played with a full-cage facemask. He’s impressive, and you know how I felt. We draft a wide receiver in the second round and we trade up to get him? Oh, you’re kidding me. … Really, he’s been impressive.”

Sanchez was in full agreement.

“It was awesome, and right out of the gate, too,” the QB said. “Reeve made a good play to tip it and Stephen stayed with it. It was another encouraging play and something fun, something all of us could rally around. It was big for Stephen. He didn’t show it much, but I know he was nervous. For a first day, for a first-timer like that, that’s big and it gives him a lot of confidence. You could tell that weight was kind of lifted off his shoulders.”

Another observer, a former Jets first-round wideout who famously wore No. 19, also liked what he saw at today’s practice.

“I think it’ll be a pretty good transition for Stephen from college to the pros,” said Keyshawn Johnson, on his first visit to Cortland as a member of the ESPN contingent. “At least we do know he’ll block because this is a running-style offense. We know the physical attributes are there for him. But it’s going to take time. For rookie receivers it takes a minute to learn the game.”

A New York minute in some cases. And Hill said he’s learning the game from a few folks wearing the green and white.

“I can still see myself as a little raw,” he said, “but Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, they’re staying in my ear a lot. Even [Antonio] Cromartie and Revis are helping me out with little things they’re seeing.”

Almost as an afterthought, Hill was asked about the hamstring injury from early June that sidelined him for the full-squad minicamp. He said John Mellody and his training staff are keeping an eye him so as to have him ready to go for the Sept. 9 opener vs. the Bills. But from today’s work, Hill seems to have no beef with his hammy.

“Now I’m back,” he said, “and I’m ready to make plays.” Even a play (or two?) on the Island.

Key Performer

Johnson had an impromptu performance today that was similar off the field to his on-field roles in the 1998 AFC Divisional Round win over Jacksonville when he had a catch for one touchdown, ran for another, recovered a Jaguars fumble to set up his TD run, and intercepted a Hail Mary pass (thrown by Mark Brunell) as a DB at the end of the 34-24 triumph.

Today Key was an ESPN talent commenting on practice with Sal Paolantonio, a Los Angeleno giving fellow Southern Californian Sanchez a bro hug, a gray eminence trading confidences with fellow wideouts Holmes and Hill, and the proud owner of 23 Panera Bread franchises in the L.A. and central California regions. He also admitted to being a first-time Ryan admirer.

“Rex — I love him. This is the first time I’ve really met him. Man, I like him a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s tough. He’s a defensive coach. He kind of knows he has to put up or shut up. And he’s the coolest looking head coach in the NFL. He’s lost weight, he looks healthy, he has cool shoes and a tat on his calf.”

Keyshawn also gives a conditional thumbs-up to the Sanchez-Tim Tebow experiment assembled by Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Tony Sparano.

“They can’t split the reps, and I think they know that,” he said. “If you give one guy 15 plays because the offense has started out of rhythm or you want a change of pace, that’s OK. But if it’s a 50-50 split, they won’t win.”

And his advice to Jets fans if Sanchez hits a skid?

“I would have to say to the fans, sit patient,” he said. “There are other players on the team. This quarterback [Sanchez] has shown he can throw the football and win games at times, although there have been some issues. But I don’t know that a two-game skid warrants a new starter.”

Rex Cetera

Ryan said he liked a few elements of today’s opening session. For one, even though the players were in shells, not full pads, “The 9-on-7 mentality, I can’t wait to see that drill every day. On defense we have the kind of mentality that we can stop anybody from running the football. And on offense we have the exact opposite mentality, that we can run the ball on anybody. It’s an interesting mindset, and when they put the pads on, that’s one you want to watch for sure.”

Rex also liked today’s tempo of practice, which was so quick and efficient that in some periods the Jets got in almost twice as many plays as they had scripted, which is a big help to the third units, which got most of those extra snaps. And with that Sparano-inspired tempo, the coach said, “We’re a team that will be in shape.”

Ryan confirmed the LaRon Landry pitch count after the veteran safety, taken off the A-PUP list Thursday, was dressed but mostly stretching and watching today’s practice from behind the secondary. “We’re going to have him go full-speed every third practice. We may alter that as we go. He’s a full-speed guy. You don’t want him to be reckless. You want to make sure you get him to opening day to play Buffalo. That said, he’s also got to make up some ground, learn the defense, compete with his teammates.”

Practice Notes

CB Donnie Fletcher had a nice leaping breakup of a Greg McElroy deep ball for TE Dedrick Epps. … RB Bilal Powell had a nice series with several artful interior runs and receptions. … Revis got Sanchez back in 7-on-7’s with a sideline pick. … Tebow has a penchant for wanting to string out seemingly lost plays and then save them with a big downfield throw, not just via an improvised run.

Punter T.J. Conley showed the fruits of his offseason of strength and practice work by rocking a 63-yarder, 4.3 hangtime, out of bounds at the 7, followed immediately by a 65-yarder, 4.8 hang, OB at the 5. … To end practice, K Josh Brown missed from 42 and 44 yards, Nick Folk hit from 46 and 48, then Brown concluded by rocking through 50- and 52-yard field goals.

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Folk Keeps Cool as the Temperature Rises

Posted by Randy Lange on June 19, 2012 – 12:26 pm

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.

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