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Post Draft: New York Jets Special Teams Breakdown

Jets Special Teams Post Draft Overview

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? We’ve all heard this saying before, and the response is usually, ‘give me the bad news first.’

The bad news is that the Jets offense ranked 32nd last season. The good news is that despite all of this, the team won seven games. Therefore, it begs the question. How did the Jets win seven games with such an anemic offense? Typically, that type of offensive output leads to a two or three-win season. The answer is the coaching of Brant Boyer and his special teams’ unit. While Gregg Williams and his defense deserve some credit for the team finishing at 7-9, it’s the Jets special teams that have been elite.

Throughout the last two seasons, by all metrics, and in every category, The Jets special teams units have graded out as one of the league’s best by experts like Rick Gosselin, Football Outsiders, and Pro Football Focus.

What’s particularly impressive about last year is that the Jets lost two pro bowlers in Jason Myers and Andre Roberts. On top of that, the Jets kicking situation was a debacle. The Jets went through three kickers before landing on the steady but unspectacular Sam Ficken. Still, it’s the Jets return/coverage units that helped them shine throughout last season.

Credit goes to Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. Typically, in a salary cap world, the one area that gets short-changed the most is special teams. Boyer has made the most out of what he’s had to work with. Jets General Manager Joe Douglas did Boyer a solid and addressed special teams in the NFL draft. Because of this, a healthier roster and Boyer’s coaching, There’s reason to believe that the Jets special teams will be better in 2020.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the Jets special teams after free agency and the draft.

Kickers

Sam Ficken, Brett Maher

The term “off the scrap heap” best defines the Jets kicking situation. Sam Ficken came off of said “heap” last year and made 19-of-27 field goals, with a long of 54 yards. Also, Ficken converted 23-of-26 extra points. He is back with the team. However, his position is not a secure one by any stretch.

Brett Maher is also a member of the scrap heap community. Leg strength has never been the issue for Maher. However, accuracy has. The former CFL All-Star burst onto the scene in 2018 for the Dallas Cowboys. Maher beat out Dan Bailey and then proceeded to tie a team-record with six field goals over 50 yards, with his longest being from 62 yards out. Last season, it all fell apart for Maher. He struggled mightily, connecting on only 66 percent of his field-goal attempts. Dallas gave Maher a long leash before eventually cutting him loose in December. Brant Boyer has a history of getting the best out of his kickers (Jason Myers), but Maher’s issues might not be an easy fix.

For now, the kicking competition is a two-man race but it would be wise of the Jets to look for an upgrade.

Punters

Braden Mann, Ian Berryman

Lachlan Edwards wasn’t half-bad for the Jets in his four-years with the team. Quite frankly, the Jets drafted Braden Mann in the sixth round because they think they can get better production from the position. Edwards wasn’t awful, but he is far from elite. The former Ray Guy award winner at Texas A&M, Braden Mann, was a record-breaking punter in college. In 2018, Mann set records for punting average, and 50-yard punts in a season. The Jets expect big things from their new ‘Mann’ at Punter. Western Carolina’s Ian Berryman lost a punting battle with the Steelers last summer. If Edwards had returned to the Jets, the strong-legged Berryman’s odds of making the roster would’ve been stronger.

Returners

Vyncint Smith, Ashtyn Davis, Trenton Cannon, Jehu Chesson (Kick returners)

Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder (Punt Returners)

Ashtyn Davis is a wildcard at kick returner. His multi-layered role on defense will occupy most of his time. Make no mistake though, Davis is dynamic in space, and the Jets have a good history with defensive backs as returners. Antonio Cromartie most recently comes to mind.

The Jets might have found their answer at kick returner in Vyncint Smith. The blazing-fast Smith averaged 29-yards per kick return last season. A hidden gem uncovered by the Jets’ front office, Smith was one of the teams’ bright spots in 2019. Trenton Cannon and Jehu Chesson’s best chance at making the roster will be as kick returners.

At punt returner, Braxton Berrios didn’t provide many big plays, but he was very consistent. Berrios was second in the NFL with 11.4 yards per return. An impressive stat line, considering that Braxton’s longest gain was only 26 yards.

Specialists

Long Snapper – Thomas Hennessy

Coverage Players – Josh Bellamy, Neville Hewitt, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco, Harvey Langi, Frankie Luvu, Ashtyn Davis, Jabari Zuniga, Bryce Hall

The best compliment you can give to a long snapper is to forget that he is on the team. Going unnoticed has worked well so far for Thomas Hennessy.

Many of the Jets’ best special teams players last year were called into starting duty because of injuries. Like Neville Hewitt. Some of them were injured themselves like special teams ace Josh Bellamy. It’s a testament to Boyer’s coaching that the Jets special teams coverage units ranked so high in 2019.

Final Analysis

If the Jets offense improves from their dreadful 2019 performance and the teams’ defense takes a step forward in year two under Gregg Williams. The Jets’ special teams could be the difference in the team making the playoffs in 2020. It seems far fetched, but the margin of victory in the NFL is so narrow that elite special teams play can be the difference in winning seven games or nine. As a result, of the NFL expanding its playoff field from 12 to 14 next season. A 9-7 season might do the trick, and all it would take is for Brant Boyer’s group to be special again.


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