The Curious Case of New York Jets Kicker Nick Folk

Staff Writer Dalbin Osorio takes a closer look at New York Jets kicker Nick Folk.

Since New York Jets General Manager John Idzik took over, one mantra that everyone around Florham Park has been preaching is “competition.” We have a Quarterback competition, a Left Guard competition, a Tight End competition, a Safety competition, and a Wide Receiver competition. All of these competitions have received their fair share of warranted attention. However, one competition that seems to have been overlooked is the competition at Kicker between the incumbent Nick Folk and former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, the latter best known for the following kick…

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New York Jets: Six Pack Of Special Teams Observations

Six observations about the New York Jets special teams

The New York Jets special teams in 2011 was a roller coaster. They were either returning kicks for a touchdown or muffing punt after punt. Overall, it is fair to classify last season’s performance as disappointing considering the normal high standard of performance set by Mike Westhoff’s units. Considering his body of work, it is reasonable to expect a bounceback year from a group that has potential to be one of the league’s best.

1. Kicker vs. Kicker – The kicking battle between Josh Brown and Nick Folk should be closer than most people expect. Everybody seems ready to hand the job to Brown, which is understandable considering Folk’s inconsistencies the past two years. However, there was a reason Brown was a free agent this year. He is coming off a very average season and has been primarily kicking in a dome the past 4 years. Brown certainly has the ability to beat Folk out but don’t necessarily expect him to run away with the job.

2. Be The Best – In Westhoff’s scheme, there is no reason Joe McKnight can’t be one of the best, if not the best kick returner in the NFL. He has the needed speed and vision, demonstrated by his four returns of over 40 yards last year and his 31.6 average per kick return. McKnight now has a full year under his belt with the job and should only improve because of his experience.

3. Big Play Potential – Look for Jeremy Kerley to be the primary punt returner. If he can curtail his ball security issues, he has the big play potential the Jets have lacked in recent years at punt returner with people like Jim Leonhard and Jerricho Cotchery deep. Unfortunately, without Leonhard on the team who Rex Ryan always claimed “could catch the ball in a Hurricane,” the Jets need Kerley to also become reliable when catching punts near the end-zone and in poor weather conditions.

4. Open For Business – I wouldn’t be surprised if TJ Conley wasn’t the Jets opening day punter. Look for the Jets to bring in more competition for him throughout training camp. Conley was average at best last year. Beyond that, the Jets need a punter who can run the option with personal protector Tim Tebow, no?

5. Coverage – The Jets missed Brad Smith, Drew Coleman, and Lance Laury on their coverage units last year. This season they will need players like Ellis Lankster, Josh Mauga and rookies Demario Davis, Josh Bush, and Antonio Allen to step up.

6. Tebow’s Here – A random Tebow anecdote. When I was in college, we heard a story that whenever Tebow walked into a class at Florida, he would motion his arms into a “T” and go “Tebow’s Here!” It became an ongoing joke on our football team, long before “Tebowing” became all the rage. While TOJ is the self-proclaimed most Pro-Sanchez site on the Internet, I did take the time to drop a Tebow outside the Bruce Springsteen concert I just attended in Germany to see how many people would recognize what I was doing…not many did.

Anyway, I don’t think people should get too carried away with Tebow’s special teams involvement. Will there be a fake or two throughout the season? Yes but don’t expect the Jets to breaking out fake punts or field goals every other attempt.

New York Jets Free Agent Activity Picking Up

The activity around the New York Jets in free agency is starting to pick up

The news around the New York Jets in free agency is starting to pick up a little bit. Let’s go over what we have learned so far today about the direction the team could be heading in –

1. Folk Back – The team has re-signed kicker Nick Folk, who has been inconsistent in his two years with the team. They are expected to bring in competition for him in training camp. There is also chatter they could draft a kicker in the later rounds, as special teams coach Mike Westhoff said this is the best class of kickers and punters he has seen in years.

2. Cotchery Back? Schilens Close? – The Jets have expressed interest in bringing wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery back. However, they will be competing with the Steelers for his services who also want him back after his one year stint with the team. Chaz Schilens is expected to visit the team tonight and apparently the team is high enough on him that they see him as a potential #2 receiver opposite Santonio Holmes.

Personally, I’d take Cotchery over Schilens as a number two receiver any day of the week. Look at Schilens’ career and try to argue otherwise. Obviously, at this stage of his career Cotchery is better fitted as a number three or a part time player but it appears the Jets are looking to go cheap at wide receiver in free agency and if they do, take Cotchery over Schilens.

3. Quiet At Linebacker/Offensive Line – The San Diego Chargers signed OLB Jarret Johnson, a player the Jets were rumored to be interested in. The Jets never made any formal inquiries about bringing Johnson in for a visit. It appears they will let Bryan Thomas mentor whatever outside linebacker they add early in the draft. They have to add one early in the draft, right?

We still haven’t heard a thing about the Jets inquiring about any offensive lineman. Are they confident about getting Vernon Carey to join his former coach, Tony Sparano? Or are they really considering going into the year with Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse competing at right tackle as Mario Williams takes a physical in Buffalo?

Jets vs. Jaguars: Game Breakdown

Offense: For the second week in a row the Jets are facing a defense that will be more susceptible to the pass than the run. Jacksonville is solid up front and won’t be easy to run the football on. However, that doesn’t mean the Jets need to be dropping Mark Sanchez back 44 times in this game. You would like to see them try to establish some type of balance and get Shonn Greene rolling with some type of confidence. The Jets are going to have favorable match-ups in the passing game that will be there to exploit, but being able to create the threat of the run will only open that up more.

Sanchez needs to do a better job of protecting the football this week and getting the offense off to a quick start. He can contribute to that by getting Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller involved early.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe McKnight get a few reps on offense this week, along with Jeremy Kerley maybe getting a longer look. The Jets are going to show the Wildcat at some point and using Kerley and McKnight in the backfield together could be a good way to break through against the Jaguars tough front seven.

Also keep an eye out for former Jets defensive backs Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman, who both have quickly picked up large roles on the Jacksonville defense. Coleman had a sack last week and Lowery recorded an interception.

Defense: Jacksonville is lacking on major offensive threats in a big way. Maurice Jones-Drew is a beast but if the Jets can contain him, which they are equipped to do, Jacksonville doesn’t have many options to turn to. Mercedes Lewis is a very good tight end who would have the ability to gash a Jets defense that struggles to stop his position but he isn’t expected to play on Sunday. Their top two receivers, Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, shouldn’t be able to get free on Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Yet, let’s hope Cromartie is motivated to return with a strong game after a weak opening performance.

The Jets took the time to look at multiple pass rushers on the free agent market this week, including Tully Banta-Cain. It Is time for Jamaal Westerman to break through and make a statement if he wants to be a major part of this defense moving forward. I would also like to see Muhammad Wilkerson come up with an impact play or two. Jacksonville will be running right into the teeth of the Jets defense early and often, so Wilkerson should be able to fill up the stat sheet a little bit.

Luke McCown is going to be asked to manage the game and not make any turnovers. If the Jets can establish an early lead, they should tee off on McCown who is lacking in experience. I simply can’t see him being able to find open receivers down the field with a myriad of Jets blitzes coming at him.

Special Teams: It was hard not to be very impressed with both Nick Folk and TJ Conley last week. Let’s hope they can keep it up and maintain some degree of consistency. Mike Westhoff said this week Antonio Cromartie is going to handle the majority of kick return duties, with Joe McKnight occasionally spelling him. Cromartie has the natural ability to be one of the league’s best returners but he needs to refrain from trying those 109 yard returns. Jeremy Kerley will continue to handle punt return duties and did a nice job fielding the ball last week.

Initial Reaction: Still Got It – Jets Win Thrilling Opener 27-24

It was about as memorable as an opening night you could ask for, as the New York Jets pulled out a gutty, thrilling 27-24 comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys.

You can say what you want about this team but they understand how to win. They have a ton of heart and resiliency and it is foolish to ever count them out of a game.

It came from everywhere tonight. Plaxico Burress turning it on in the second half for 4 receptions for 72 yards, along with a beautiful touchdown reception. Mark Sanchez posting up 335 passing yards and distributing the ball around to Burress, Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and LaDainian Tomlison who all also had big nights.

There was Joe McKnight coming up with a huge blocked punt that was returned for a score by Isaiah Trufant in what was the loudest I have ever heard a crowd at a Jets game. Mike DeVito forcing a Tony Romo fumble in the fourth quarter to keep the Jets alive. Darrelle Revis coming up with an interception to set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal…and of course Folk hitting that game winning 50 yard field goal in what must have been a sweet moment of redemption, considering Dallas cut him.

It was a complete team win. The Jets are far from perfect and have plenty of issues to still work out but a win is a win and it was a hell of a way to start the season.

The Final Days Of Pre-Season

We are less than two weeks away from Jets vs. Cowboys: week one, Sunday night football. Ryan vs. Ryan. The Jets blitz vs. Tony Romo. Miles Austin/Dez Bryant vs. Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie. D’Brickashaw Ferguson vs. DeMarcus Ware….the list goes on.

Yet, we need to finish up the pre-season first, namely the Jets last game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles this Thursday. The final roster cuts still need to be made and I wouldn’t expect too many shockers. They have already decided their kicking options by keeping Nick Folk and TJ Conley over Nick Novak and Chris Bryan. Both battles were close throughout the pre-season, so why not go with the more experienced kicker in your building and a punter who has now spent three training camps with you?

The Jets also have to be concerned about starting fullback John Conner who is in walking boot now with a sprained ankle. He is expected to be start in week one but if he has any setbacks, the team is going to have to dust off Tony Richardson from retirement, which certainly isn’t a bad fallback option.

Around the rest of the roster, I would expect Patrick Turner to end up as the number five receiver now that Logan Payne has a dislocated wrist. Scotty McKnight belongs on the practice squad…if that. Payne probably would have claimed the number five spot but his injury will likely either put him on the IR or the practice squad for the time being.

Undrafted rookie linebackers Nick Bellore and Garret McIntyre both have a great shot of making the final 53 and could bump recently signed Aaron Maybin off the roster. Maybin would need a monster performance against Philadelphia on Thursday to give the coaching staff second thoughts.

Journeyman offensive lineman Robby Felix and Dennis Landolt will also likely make the final 53, as the Jets will risk it with questionable depth on that unit. It is sounding like Rob Turner will be kept on the roster in hopes that he is healthy by the end of October. On the other side of the ball, Ryan will probably keep 7 or 8 defensive lineman in a group that looks to have solid depth thanks to strong pre-seasons from Ropati Pitoitua, Martin Tevaseau, and Marcus Dixon.

At this point, it is hard to not just root for Thursday to be over with so the final roster can be locked in and the preparation/preview for Dallas can start.

New York Jets: What About Those Special Teams?

You can never forget about 1/3rd of the game. Let’s take a quick look at what the New York Jets special teams situation should look like this year:

Kicker – Nick Folk and Nick Novak are battling for the starting job. This is the type of contest that could go deep into the pre-season as Folk is far from having the job locked down. I am not sure either answer is a terrific one but at least we have seen Folk make it through a whole season in the Meadowlands being passably good. They still haven’t found a long term answer at this position.

Punter – TJ Conley is back in training camp for the third time and will now compete with Ben Graham 2.0, aka Chris Bryan. The lefty from Australia is already getting good reviews out of camp and seems to be the early frontrunner. Whomever the punter is, hopefully they know not to run the ball on 4th and know the shake-weight guy.

Return – On both punt and kick return, we should see some combination of Jeremy Kerley, Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, and Antonio Cromartie (just on kick returns). This probably won’t be sorted out until the end of the pre-season and could change throughout the year.

Coverage – No Brad Smith. No James Ihedigbo. No Lance Laury. No Drew Coleman. Look for players like Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman, Marquice Cole, and Emmanuel Cook to lead the way.

NFL Free Agency 2011: What Dominoes Will Fall Next For Jets?

After a chaotic morning where the New York Jets signed Santonio Holmes to a five year deal and the discussion about Nnamdi Asomugha coming to town reached a fever pitch, things have quieted down…a little bit.

– The discussions about Asomugha have continued on, with ESPN’s John Clayton commenting it will take a few days for him to work a deal out with any team. However, keep in mind Clayton had said earlier in the off-season the Jets would be in salary cap hell and would have no chance to sign any free agents, so take his words with a grain of salt.

– A testament to Mike Tannenbaum’s creativity. Santonio Holmes contract will only count $2.45 million against the 2011 cap…wow.

– Manish Mehta of The Daily News has reported the Jets will ask LaDainian Tomlinson to rework his contract to free up more cap space (likely to pursue Asomugha).

– The Jets have resigned kicker Nick Folk to a 1 year deal. CBS Sports is also reporting that punter Steve Weatherford is unlikely to return.

– In a press conference today, Rex Ryan said Mark Sanchez will be the team captain this year and will literally wear a “C” on his jersey.

– Darrelle Revis was very diplomatic about Asomugha joining the team while still paying respect to Antonio Cromartie. Revis did call Asomugha “the best corner in football” even though I find it hard to believe Revis doesn’t he think he holds that title.

– This isn’t surprising but it sounds like Braylon Edwards days with the Jets are numbered. He is clearly frustrated by the lack of attention/effort the Jets have made thus far to keep him, which is understandable but they simply have higher priorities right now. Edwards will get a good contract somewhere and that team will get a tough receiver who improved vastly the past year.

– The speculation on Randy Moss coming to the Jets as a cheap alternative to Braylon Edwards has picked up. However, the latest word from Bob Glauber of Newsday is that his chances of joining the team remain “very small.” How the Jets handle the wide receiver position, will likely depend how the cornerback position shakes out for them.

– Kellen Clemens was signed by the Washington Redskins to a one year deal. We will miss his happy feet in the pocket and interceptions.

– Ben Hartsock signed a two year deal with the Carolina Panthers. We will miss his false starts and holding penalties.

New York Jets Free Agency: The Other Guys

There has been no shortage of talk about the appropriate fates in free agency for Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith…but what about the other unrestricted free agents the New York Jets have to make decisions on?

Shaun Ellis – Personally, I think it is a smart investment to bring Ellis back on a one or two year deal to help him mentor rookie Muhammad Wilkerson. He is also a leader in the locker room who clearly has plenty left in tank, as evidenced by his performance against New England in the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, I could see the Jets not matching his contract demands, especially after his request for a restructured deal last season didn’t happen.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Brodney Pool – He came on strong at the end of last year and finally began to look like the playmaker the Jets signed him to be. Pool should command a good amount of interest in the open market, so it will be up to the Jets to determine how much of an upgrade he is over Eric Smith.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Trevor Pryce – Rex Ryan compared Muhammad Wilkerson to a young Trevor Pryce and he would be a cheaper, although less productive, mentor to the rookie than Shaun Ellis. I could very easily see the Jets choosing to bring him back over Ellis in order to save money.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Tony Richardson – Likely to retire and if he decides not to, the Jets aren’t going to bring him back considering they have John Conner ready to step into the starting role.

  • TOJ Votes – Retire T-Rich, you had a great career.
  • TOJ Predicts – T-Rich retires.

Steve Weatherford – Despite an inconsistent performance in the playoffs, Weatherford was still pretty good overall last year, especially at pinning teams deep. Considering the musical chairs they played at punter before Weatherford, I think the Jets will bring him back…besides, who else is bringing the shake weights to camp?

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Wayne Hunter – Originally it looked like he could compete with Vladimir Ducasse for the starting right tackle spot. I now think because of the lockout, the Jets will opt to bring Damien Woody back and have Ducasse spend a year learning behind him at the position, which likely means good-bye to Hunter.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk, spend the money on Woody instead.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Lance Laury – A special teamer, who was fairly quiet on special teams for the Jets last season. However, they are very thin at linebacker.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk to give more of a chance to players like Josh Mauga.

Eric Smith – A versatile safety, who is also very good at special teams. The Jets will ultimately have to choose between him and Brodney Pool and I think Pool projects better as a starter opposite Jim Leonhard.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Drew Coleman – Struggles in coverage, but he is a playmaker at the nickel back position. The decision on Antonio Cromartie could go a long way to determining his fate. He isn’t helped by the fact that the coaching staff likely wants to give more reps to Kyle Wilson, who was a first round pick last year.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk to give Kyle Wilson and Marquice Cole more playing time.

James Ihedigbo – An effective blitzer in many of the Jets packages and a good special teams player, who seems to be a Rex Ryan guy.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Nick Folk – Inconsistent at times last year but I don’t see the Jets just handing the job off to Nick Novak.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

As for Kellen Clemens, I think we all know he is gone. Perhaps if Justin McCariens didn’t have a bad day back in 2007, things would have went differently…

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

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.