One topic that came up during today's conference call with Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was new kicker Shayne Graham and his work on kickoffs.
Stephen Gostkowski's powerful leg was a valuable weapon for the Patriots on kickoffs; Gostkowski had 15 touchbacks in seven games. Graham's leg isn't as strong, so he focuses more on hang time and directional kicking.
There was a good example of this in the Thanksgiving win over the Lions. Graham had eight kickoffs in the game and one of his deepest was fielded at the goal-line by Stefan Logan. But because the kickoff didn't have the desired hang time, it took longer for the coverage team to get down the field and Logan delivered a 42-yard return, his longest of the game.
Overall, Graham's kickoffs against the Lions were fielded at the 6, 7, 3, 0, 0, 5 and 5. His final kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback.
Graham received a vote of confidence from the Patriots' brass today.
"We’re happy with Shayne, what he’s done to this point," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said. "... We’ll try to cover the kicks the best we can because they’re a big factor in the game, this week especially with a guy like Brad Smith. He’s capable of taking it the distance on every play."