Stephen Gostkowski - Professional Career - 2006 Season

2006 Season

Gostkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft with the 118th pick. During the Patriots' 2006 training camp, he competed with veteran kicker Martín Gramática, who the Patriots had signed as a free agent after Adam Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts. On August 23, 2006, before their third preseason game, the Patriots cut Gramática, and gave the job to rookie Gostkowski. (This is the reverse of what the makers of the video game Madden NFL 07 expected; in the game, New England's place kicker is Gramática, not Gostkowski, who is listed as a free agent.) Since Gramática's release, Gostkowski has not faced any competition for his job.

During the 2006 preseason, Gostkowski was perfect on kicks and PATs, going 9-for-9 and 11-for-11, respectively, for a total of 38 points. His longest field goal was a 54-yard attempt against the New York Giants in the last preseason game. On November 26, 2006, Gostkowski made the longest regular-season kick of his young career, a 52-yard kick against the Chicago Bears, which is also the longest kick ever made at Gillette Stadium. Gostkowski finished the 2006 season as the highest-scoring rookie, with 103 points (20 field goals and 43 PATs), edging out the 96 points scored by Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

While Gostkowski struggled early in his rookie season—he had two consecutive kicks blocked—Patriots reporters and fans have noted that his kickoffs are noticeably longer than were Vinatieri's in his last season in Foxboro. During the 2006 season, he averaged 65.5 yards per kickoff with a return average of 23 yards, and a total of 12 touchbacks. (By comparison, in 2005, Vinatieri's average kickoff was just 61.6 yards, though playing in a dome in 2006 he averaged 65.8 yards.) He also, somewhat surprisingly, did better overall on FG kicks than did opposing teams: while Gostkowski made 20 of 26 kicks, for a conversion rate of 76.9%, opposing kickers made just 22 of 30, for a conversion rate of just 73.3%. Gostkowski's rookie season was statistically about the same as Vinatieri's: Vinatieri converted 27 of 35 kicks (77.3%), but missed three PATs (39/42).

Gostkowski also had to contend with having three different holders during the season. After his first holder, punter Josh Miller, was placed on injured reserve after week 11, the Patriots signed Ken Walter, who held for weeks 12 to 15 until he too was placed on IR. Though the Patriots hired Todd Sauerbrun to punt, holding duties were given to the Patriots' backup quarterback Matt Cassel (which led to one regular-season kick that, while good, made two bizarre turns in mid-air).

Read more about this topic:  Stephen Gostkowski, Professional Career

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