Bill Belichick doesn’t rule out possibility of Patriots carrying two kickers on 53-man roster

Patriots

Nick Folk and Chad Ryland have been battling for the kicker job this preseason.

Fourth-round rookie Chad Ryland has taken most of the kickoffs for the Patriots this preseason. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

When the Patriots selected Chad Ryland in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, several assumed that Nick Folk’s time in New England was set to end.

But Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping two kickers on the roster when he spoke with reporters on Saturday.

“We had two kickers last year on the roster for one game,” Belichick said when asked if he would ever consider keeping two kickers on the 53-man roster. “Again, there’s a number of things to consider when you look at the whole roster makeup.

“We’ll get into those this weekend and do what we feel is best for the team. That’s all I can tell you.”

As Belichick alluded to, the Patriots will have a lot of decisions to make in the next few days. Teams across the league will have to trim their rosters down to 53 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m. New England is still carrying a 90-man roster as of Saturday morning, meaning it’ll have to cut at least 37 players.

The Patriots didn’t get to see much of the competition unfold during their three preseason games. New England only had one field goal attempt during the preseason with Folk making a 44-yard kick in the first quarter of the preseason opener.

But Belichick said he’s been able to see more than enough from Folk and Ryland at practice.

“You know, we haven’t kicked a field goal in preseason, so it’s all been touchdowns and no field goal attempts,” Belichick mistakenly said, though he wasn’t far off. “We’ve had plenty of them in practice, and that’s what we have to go off of. They’ve both had really good camps, so that’s a pretty tight competition.”

Folk was viewed as one of the Patriots’ better players for much of the last few seasons. The 38-year-old was accurate over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, making 62 of 67 (92.5 percent) field goal attempts during that time. He also made an NFL record 64 consecutive kicks from within 50 yards, a streak that ended in October of last season.

As Folk was a little less accurate last year (he made 86.5 percent of his kicks) and struggled with longer field goals (he converted 73.7 percent of his kicks from at least 40 yards out), the Patriots opted to draft Ryland, who was known for his big leg in college. The Patriots made him the highest-selected specialist in the Belichick era when they drafted him with the 112th overall pick.

Ryland has taken more kickoff opportunities than Folk this preseason, kicking off seven times as Folk’s only done it twice. Ryland converted five of his kickoffs into touchbacks, too. Both kickers made their two point-after attempts as well.

But Ryland has reportedly struggled at times during training camp, missing a few tries in a row during practice on Tuesday. Belichick has never cut a healthy rookie selected in the first four rounds during his time in New England, so Ryland is likely safe. But missed kicks like that could open the door for Folk to remain on the roster.

In addition to the kicker battle, the Patriots have also used two punters in training camp in the preseason. Sixth-round rookie Bryce Baringer and veteran Corliss Waitman are both battling for a roster spot.

Belichick mentioned the competition at punter when he was asked about the kicking competition on Saturday.

“Same thing with the punter situation, Corliss had two huge punts last night, one out of the end zone, so we’ll see how that goes,” Belichick said. “It looks like we’ve got a very good competition at both of those spots.”

While Waitman had an impressive night Friday, it appears that Baringer has the inside track for the punter job, as he’s taken most of the reps in the preseason and in practice.


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