Diagnosis: Recent changes to kick offs have dramatically lessened the impact that special teams, specifically kick and punt returning, has on the NFL game. That being said, field position is still a crucial aspect of winning in this league. The formula to achieving good field position is a solid return game and a stout defense. Unfortunately, the New York Jets have only displayed the latter over the first quarter of the season, the defense forcing a whopping thirty two punts. When it comes to the return game however, it appears that the Jets have developed a serious case of agoraphobia, or fear of leaving a safe place. In this particular case, the Jets’ punt return unit seems to fear leaving their own territory, or gaining any positive yardage whatsoever. In fact, the Jets rank 32nd in the league in average starting field position per drive (according to Football Outsiders).
- 8/32 punts resulting in fair catches (Kerley broke the record last year with 36)
- 5/32 punts resulting in touchbacks
- 11/32 punts being downed/kicked out of bounds
- 8/32 punts returned
- Total of 41 punt return yards (long of 12)
*Note: 24/32 punts resulting in poor field position. Or, better yet, poor field position a whopping 75% of the time
- Starting in your own end-zone
- Poor running production due to anticipation by the defense
- Extra pressure on the quarterback
- Turnovers out of desperation
- Quick “Three and Outs”
- Worst Case Scenario: Safeties
Call in the Reinforcements: Fear not! Clyde Gates and Jeremy “Fair Catch” Kerley’s time as the Jets’ return men may be coming to a swift end. Mike Goodson’s return to the field is on the horizon. The 6’0″, 210 lbs speedster has drawn favorable comparisons to Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. We at Turn on the Jets have discussed what he brings to the table at length, but in short: this man can run. Goodson is elusive, shifty, simply makes tacklers miss. His presence in the return game will do wonders for the Jets average field position.
Also of note is that the Jets worked out Josh Cribbs earlier this week. So far nothing has come of it yet, but should he be added to the mix the Jets return game (featuring Goodson and Cribbs) could quickly become a strength.
Where the Other Ten Guys At? : The Punt Returner is only one of the eleven other players assigned to punt returns. Special teams is a unique aspect of the sport in that they only have so many plays per game to get the job done. With that in mind, they don’t produce nearly enough of a sample size for us to judge them fairly. However, what the punt return team has displayed is a plethora of missed assignments and whiffed blocks. Whoever is taking punts cannot go at it alone. He needs to rely on the guys in front of him to open up lanes, prevent him from getting drilled or, at the very least, slow the gunners down. So far this season the punt return unit has failed to accomplish these tasks with any consistency. Can rookie Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica whip this group into shape?
Turnovers: One cannot expect an opponents’ drive to end in a turnover with any regularity. However, the Jets have had a particular dearth of turnovers through the first four weeks. Again, they are ranked near the bottom of the league, 31st to be exact. The occasional turnover from the defense could help change the Jets’ field position fortunes and stymie some of the negative effects of poor punt returning.