Patriots ’20 Questions: Can Justin Rohrwasser replace Stephen Gostkowski?

Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable
June 25, 2020 - 12:10 pm
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The Patriots are in the midst of the most interesting, important offseason in more than two decades. Tom Brady moved on to Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick remains in place with a veteran roster. There are plenty of questions and even more plentiful opinions regarding the defending AFC East champions. Over the next few weeks WEEI.com will ask and offer up answers to 20 of the most critical questions facing the 2020 Patriots.

Today’s question: Can Justin Rohrwasser replace former All-Pro kicker Stephen Gostkowski?

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Hannable: While it wouldn't be a surprise to see Justin Rohrwasser work out in New England this season, there are several factors working against him -- mostly relating to pressure. He has a great deal of it coming in and replacing Stephen Gostkowski. It's not like Rohrwasser went to a big-time college school and was put in the biggest pressure situations. He started at the University of Rhode Island and then transferred to Marshall. No offense to those two schools, but it's nothing like kicking at an SEC school.

In addition, he will have even more attention on him because of his controversial tattoo. This figures to be a major topic during the preseason, especially considering everything that has gone on in recent months with Black Lives Matter and social justice movements being a major topic within the NFL. This likely will increase the pressure on him during the summer with all the attention he will receive in addition to replacing Gostkowski. Given Bill Belichick's track record with specialists, we wouldn't be surprised if he succeeds, but Rohrwasser has a number of pressure factors working against him.

Hart: Short answer? Yes. Certainly Gostkowski had a tremendous career in New England, reaching All-Pro status and becoming the Patriots all-time leading scorer. But there were bumps along the way and certainly some massive bumps early last season before he landed on IR with a hip injury that required surgery.

Rohrwasser doesn’t have to be an All-Pro overnight. He just has to be capable and relatively consistent. Bill Belichick has an impressive track record drafting specialists, which included his pick of Gostkowski to take over for future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri more than a decade ago.

Rohrwasser certainly faces pressure and intense scrutiny, both in terms of his on-field production and his fit with the team given the controversy surrounding his tattoo that sprung up just after the Draft. But he also has a strong leg and experience kicking outdoors in poor conditions.

Rohrwasser won’t be perfect immediately. Vinatieri wasn’t. Gostkowski wasn’t, including at various times later in his career. And certainly the fact that the post-Tom Brady Patriots might be in more close games where a field goal could matter more than ever will increase the spotlight on Rohrwasser’s rookie production. But he has the tools to do the job and Belichick clearly believes he can do the job as there is currently no veteran competition on the roster. Rohrwasser may not be great, but given Belichick’s history with special teams turnover odds are the rookie kicker will be good enough and only get better moving forward.

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Related: 20 Questions for the 2020 Patriots: Add a veteran QB?