One-Third Of The Game: Jets Special Teams In 2011

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I realized today that Mike Westhoff would probably curse TOJ out for the lack of time we have spent on the Jets special teams in the previous few months. Beyond that, I saw that Jets punter Steve Weatherford got an endorsement deal with 2XU compression apparel. That is right, this team’s punter even has enough swag to get an endorsement deal (could also be his career 16 yards per carry or shake weight enthusiasm from Hard Knocks). Anyway, let’s get on to that too often neglected third of the game –

Right now, both the Jets punter and kicker from last year are free agents. The Jets didn’t extend a tender to Steve Weatherford and haven’t come up with a new deal for Nick Folk either. UFL special teams MVP Nick Novak was signed this off-season, along with punter TJ Conley who has been in camp with the Jets the past two years. As of now, I’d say it is a safe bet that the Jets will find a way to bring back both Weatherford and Folk, and have them compete with Conley and Novak in the summer.

Weatherford was very good last year, especially at pinning teams inside the 20. Despite a shaky post-season, the coaching staff seems comfortable with him. In 2010, he provided stability to very unstable position the past few years for the Jets. Nick Folk was up and down throughout the season and should be given a good run by Novak in the summer.

On their coverage units, the Jets didn’t extend a tender to linebacker Lance Laury who was a core special teams player in 2010 but was a bit of a disappointment. It is likely he won’t be back, with somebody like Josh Mauga taking over the bulk of his reps. Many of the Jets other key special teams players are free agents including Brad Smith, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Drew Coleman, and Robert Turner, so many of their units could have a very different look in 2011.

The kick return job should be wide open if Brad Smith doesn’t return. Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie (if he his back) will get the first crack at taking over. On punt return, rookie Jeremy Kerley will probably be mixed in with Jerricho Cotchery and maybe Wilson.

Regardless of who is manning the Jets coverage and return units, they should be productive again under the guidance of Westhoff, who remains arguably the best (and most entertaining) special teams coach in the NFL.

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