We already worked through the New York Jets defense and offense but let’s not forget one-third of the game: special teams. The Jets were flat out awful on specials last season and have worked to overhaul the unit this offseason. Let’s review where things stand and if we could expect any improvement…
1. An under the radar addition this offseason was the signing of wide receiver/returner Jeremy Ross. The 2011 undrafted free agent has bounced around the NFL but accrued 77 punt returns and 66 kick returns in his career. He has a solid career average of 11.2 yards per punt return and 25.1 yards per kick return, along with a touchdown on each. Ross also has 39 career receptions for 469 yards and 2 touchdowns. So what is the downside? He has poor ball security. Ross has racked up a borderline astounding 10 fumbles throughout his career (6 of them lost). The playmaking ability is there and he is the only veteran competing for both return jobs but without ball security, he won’t stick.
2. Ross’ main competition at returner is undrafted free agent Jalin Marshall, who has been turning heads at OTAs and minicamp. Marshall compiled 74 receptions and 11 touchdowns over the past two years at Ohio State, along with 175 rushing yards. More notably, he had 52 punt returns for 662 yards and a touchdown. Marshall also returned 3 kicks for 92 yards. He is likely to become a darling of Jets fans this summer but has an uphill battle to unseat Ross. Despite the veteran’s ball security issues, it is tough to give a rookie both return jobs and not expect early season issues. Marshall is more likely to stick on the practice squad and potentially get called up in season if Ross is struggling.
3. May we never see Zac Stacy return a kick again. Ever.4. At kicker, veteran Nick Folk is returning from a season ending injury. He was 13/16 on FGs before the injury (all misses coming from over 40 yards) and 100% on extra points. The Jets could save a little money by moving on from Folk but do they want to risk giving up a steady kicker, in a league where they are increasingly hard to find?
5. The reason they could give him up? Undrafted free agent Ross Martin from Duke, who many regarded as the top kicking prospects this year (sorry, Tampa Bay). Martin was 78/93 in college on field goals, showing good range. He was also 196/197 on extra points. It will be interesting to see just how much he needs to do to unseat Folk.
6. Seventh round pick Lachlan Edwards will enter camp with a slight lead over undrafted free agent Tom Hackett but both were comparable prospects coming out of college. The Jets will likely let them alternate and battle it out over the first three pre-season games, before making a decision and potentially placing the loser on the practice squad.
7. The Jets new special teams coordinator is Brant Boyer, who literally cannot do a worse job than Bobby April did last year. Boyer, similar to many Jets coaches, played in the NFL (ten seasons for three different teams). It is obviously hard to discern what he was responsible and not responsible for in Indianapolis, where he was recently an Assistant. Hopefully, the Jets infusion of young talent will assist Boyer in improving the unit and they are more consistent on basic fundamentals, like tackling and ball security.8. Outside of the returners and kickers who are likely to be the “core” special teamers? A few names to watch are Bruce Carter, Daryl Morris, Dexter McDougle, Freddie Bishop, Rontez Miles, Trevor Reilly and Mike Catapano.
9. Tanner Purdum…old reliable, is back as the long snapper. Hopefully this is the only time I ever write about him this season.
10. Let’s pour out a little out for Jeremy Kerley’s fair catches. Best of luck to JK moving forward.
11. Better Jets career: Jeff Otah or Dri Archer?
12. The Jets final DVOA rankings last year: 9th overall, 14th on offense, 5th on defense, 25th on special teams.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com