First a few updates:
1. After a few reports came out yesterday about the Jets bringing back defensive end Marques Douglas by the week’s end, it now sounds like the Jets are content with their youth movement on the defensive line and won’t pursue him. This is a statement of confidence in players like Mike DeVito, Matt Kroul, and Ropati Pitoitua to give the Jets quality reps in their defensive line rotation. DeVito is going to be the starter, after putting together a pretty strong season in 2009. Kroul and Pitoitua are untested and of course there still is that Vernon Gholston fellow, looking for his first career NFL sack.
2. Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (TurnOnTheJets).
3. The Jets are expected to sign quarterback Mark Brunell tomorrow, with a release of Kellen Clemens following shortly after.
Five Questions About The Jets Special Teams
As training camp rapidly approaches, here are five questions about the Jets special teams that still need to be sorted out –
1. What The Folk?
– The Jets parted ways with Jay Feely this off-season, who was not only a reliable kicker but a good tackler and a political pundit. They replaced him with Dallas Cowboys castoff, Nick Folk, who despite being an All-Pro kicker in 2007 and hero of my fantasy football team that season, struggled heavily in 2009. The best way to describe Folk’s play for Dallas last year is absolutely brutal. He made 64.3 percent of his field goal attempts, spearheaded by him going 5/12 from the 40-49 yard range. He was cut after shanking a 24 yard field goal in a crucial late season game against the Saints. The Jets are confident that special teams guru Mike Westhoff can get him back on track but the reality is the Jets are taking a major risk by relying on Folk to be their kicker. In OTAs and mini-camp, Folk would have days where he missed four straight field goals and then follow up by going 7 for 7 the next day. The consistency clearly isn’t there yet and for a team built on defense and running the football, it is scary to have a kicker who isn’t reliable.
2. How much Antonio Cromartie will we see on kick and punt returns?
– The Jets were giving Cromartie reps at both kick and punt return during their off-season workouts. He is an explosive player in the open field with the ball in his hands, displayed by his four career return touchdowns. However, none of those were on kick or punt returns. They were from taking a missed field goal back, along with a few interceptions. Cromartie did have a 91 yard kick return in 2006. The Jets kick return job is open since Leon Washington is no longer on the roster and regardless of who the primary return guy is, Cromartie still could get put back there once or twice a game.
3. Can Kyle Wilson handle full time punt return duties?
– After the Jets drafted Wilson, Rex Ryan claimed he would be the team’s starting nickel back and primary punt returner. It is a big task for a rookie to be pressed into the punt return job, where any small mistake or misjudgement can swing an entire game. Do you remember when the Titans had a rookie back there last year against the Jets? From all reports in OTAs and mini-camp, Wilson looked terrific fielding punts. However, it is different when you are under the bright lights of Monday Night Football week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jerricho Cotchery or Jim Leonhard still put back deep in certain situations, especially if a team is punting into the Jets endzone. Regardless, Wilson should provide the Jets some explosiveness in the punt return game they were lacking last year.
4. Will Steve Weatherford last the season as the Jets punter?
– The Jets went through about 27 punters last season before finally settling on Weatherford, who was pretty good in 2009. The best part about Weatherford may be that he averaged a whopping 26 yards per carry last season and he took the time to compliment Turn On The Jets on Facebook, which of course puts him alongside David Clowney and Donovan Warren with first team all TOJ status. In all seriousness, it will be interesting to see if Weatherford can make it through another full season as the Jets punter or if the team has a quick trigger finger like they did before the 2009 season kicked off.
5. Who will return kicks for the Jets in 2010?
– There are a ton of candidates on the roster to take over the primary kick return duties. Brad Smith did a good filling in for Leon Washington last season and is the favorite to take the majority of kicks back for the Jets this season. However, Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, Aundrae Allison, David Clowney, and Danny Woodhead are also all in the mix. As previously mentioned, Antontio Cromartie should also get a few chances back there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a committee approach to the kick return job this season, unless Brad Smith can do more of this on a consistent basis: