Patriots

Former Patriots practice squad kicker wins NFC Special Teams award

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AP Photo

Former Patriots practice squad kicker wins NFC Special Teams award

As longime Boston sports TV personality Bob Lobel would say, "Why can't we get players like that?"

When looking at the NFL's Week 10 award-winners, one name stands out: Younghoe Koo.

The former Patriots practice squadder was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in his first game after signing with the Atlanta Falcons. Koo was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, all of which came from at least 30 yards out. He also was perfect on a pair of extra points, totaling 14 points and outscoring the Saints (9) all by himself.

After Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve in early October, the Patriots had signed Koo to the practice squad and Mike Nugent to the active roster.

But Koo lasted just 11 days on the practice squad, and Nugent lasted only four games with New England, missing three field goals and an extra point over that stretch. Nick Folk is now the Patriots kicker, and he was perfect on four kicks (two field goals and two extra points) in his lone game.

So while Folk might still be the answer, Koo — AKA the one that got away — is off to a great start to his NFL career.

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Report: With Folk back at kicker, Patriots release DT Huggins

Report: With Folk back at kicker, Patriots release DT Huggins

Albert Huggins' stay in New England, which he chronicled on Instagram earlier this week, will apparently be a short one.

Maybe.

To make room on the roster after the re-signing of kicker Nick Folk, Huggins, the defensive tackle claimed off waivers earlier this week from the Philadelphia Eagles was released, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

However, Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that there may be a practice-squad spot available for Huggins, so perhaps his Instagram video wasn't for naught. 

Folk is one of four kickers the Patriots have employed this season, three of them after the season-ending injury to Stephen Gostkowski. Folk was released after having an emergency appendectomy that kept him out of the game last week in Houston. Kai Forbath was signed, becoming kicker No. 4 in 2019, then released after that game.

Folk worked out Friday and was deemed healthy enough to return. He's 7-for-9 on field-goal attempts and 3-for-3 on extra points in three games for New England. 

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If Patriots just did this, the offense would see a big improvement

If Patriots just did this, the offense would see a big improvement

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related topic. This week: Call me crazy, but if the Patriots would just do THIS offensively, they’d see a big improvement. 

Bang it to the tight ends. So far this season, the Patriots have 26 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown from Benjamin Watson, Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson. The 27 catches have come on 38 total targets. Tomlinson’s long gone and Izzo hasn’t played since Week 6 against the Giants. Lacosse, meanwhile, has missed five games. The 38-year-old Watson has been targeted twice in the past two games but has pulled in 12 of the 17 passes sent his way in the past six weeks. Last season, a dinged-up Rob Gronkowski caught 26 passes for 304 yards by himself and that came on 43 targets. It’s astounding that an offense that’s been as reliant on the tight end as the Patriots has only directed 38 passes to the position through 12 games. Even in 2016, when Gronk missed a big chunk of the year, the team was still able to get 55 catches and 701 yards from Martellus Bennett. I have a feeling the Josh McDaniels has noticed the absence of the tight end in their offense. I’m also sure that part of the reason it hasn’t been anything more than an afterthought is A) they’ve had a revolving door there with Lacosse injured and Watson suspended for the early part of the year; B) they’ve had woeful pass protection especially on the left while Isaiah Wynn was out and needed to keep a tight end in at times and C) they don’t have dynamic players at the spot. But last week, the Patriots got a much-missed seam pass to Lacosse for 23 yards and a 32-yard catch-and-run from Watson. Could that be a motivator to get the ball out there a little more often? Couldn’t hurt.

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I'm not sure there's anything they can do right now to see a BIG improvement. But there are improvements there to be made, no doubt. I'd focus on the red zone because that's the area of the field where there's the most obvious potential for growth for the Patriots. There really is no reason for the Patriots not to be at least a little more effective at scoring touchdowns when they get inside the 20. They're currently 24th in the NFL when it comes to red-zone efficiency at 48.89 percent. That's a tick below bad offensive football teams like the Giants (53.12 percent, 22nd), Bears (59.46 percent, 14th), Bills (63.64 percent, 9th) and Dolphins (67.74 percent, 4th). How do they improve? Go big. Go bigger in the passing game. Get those tight ends you mention, Tom, out there and allow them to use their bodies to post up on defenders in an area of the field where space is tight. Use N'Keal Harry, even if it's only as a specialty player in there, because he knows how to make a back-shoulder catch. Maybe give Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers a breather when you're in there. And go big in the running game deep in opponent territory. Multiple tight ends. Maybe an extra offensive lineman at times. Since Isaiah Wynn's return, and since LaCosse has been healthy enough to be a factor as a blocker, the run game has improved. Especially out of two-tight end sets. In the last two weeks, they've run for 4.2 yards per carry out of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends). That number was 3.4 yards per carry in Weeks 2-11 without Wynn. They picked up 3.3 yards per carry in games without Wynn this year, whereas they've averaged 4.4 yards per carry the past two weeks -- regardless of personnel package. They should be able to run it closer to the goal line with the offensive line and tight end spots healthier. And if they prove they can do that, that'll open up the play-action passing game down there. Poof. Just like that, the red-zone offense will be better and the Patriots will see more points on the scoreboard as a result.

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