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Around the AFC East, Pt. III - New England Patriots

Pats Pulpit: SB Nation's New England Patriots blog

It's Patriots time. The third and final installment of this Friday's tour Around the AFC East lands us in Foxboro, where we're going to discuss kickers. Yes, kickers.

Buffalo Rumblings: How comfortable are you with kicker Stephen Gostkowski? How different was it watching a non-#4 kick the ball last year? Do you miss Adam Vinatieri at all?

Tommasse, Pats Pulpit: "I'll tell you one thing: I'll be happy when New England gets a kicker with a last name like Smith. Vinatieri? Gostkowski? Sheesh.

There's no telling how the "new kid" is going to be in one of those monumental pressure situations until he's in one. He had a very good year last year for a rookie, and he did make some moderate-pressure kicks, including a few in the playoffs.

But you can't outright compare Gostkowski to Vinatieri yet. The kid (hey, I'm getting old) was a rookie last year, and you can't expect Snow Bowl-type kicks from him out of the blocks. I did a pretty extensive comparison Part I and Part II of both rookie years, and they were mighty close. In our very low-capacity poll, 5 said their rookie seasons were about the same, 4 said Gostkowski's was better, and only 1 said Vinatieri's was better.

All that said, it was a little different watching someone besides No. 4 (and I can only imagine the person who won that Massachusetts/Patriots "4" license plate was none too pleased), as it will be when someone besides No. 12 is throwing, as it always is when a great player is no longer doing what he had done.

And, yes, we miss Vinatieri. More than we miss a lot of those other guys who left for big contracts. And there's a little resentment there, too. But there were some indications that he had peaked in Foxboro, and he needed to go someplace dry and warm and flat to keep playing at a level to which we're all accustomed.

But, true to the current Patriots regime, we can't dwell on the past. Training camp is coming, and then preseason and the regular season. But even that's getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Gostkowski is the guy we have, and we expect he'll do nothing more than everything he can. If that's as good as Vinatieri, great. If not, so be it. Vinatieri will always be "immortal" in New England. Gostkowski can't think about that. He needs to do what Bill Belichick tells all his players: Do your job."

Kickers. They're so boring. Yet somehow it occurred me to ask Tom about the Patriots' kicker - I suppose that speaks a little bit to the value of Vinatieri. As for Gostkowski, he also is boring - and he'll never be "un-boring" (for lack of a better term) unless he surpasses what Vinatieri did in New England. Poor kid. Let's see what he can do when the Pats are down 2 in the waning seconds of the Bills/Pats matchup in Orchard Park...

One more post to go today, and it's the infamous recap post. Stay tuned!