New York Jets Should Lose No Punt Returner Look

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Jets opted to send no return man deep on three punts. They went with all eleven players moving up near the line of scrimmage. They did not rush all eleven on punts. Somebody had to go wide with each Patriots gunner so they would be covered in case of a fake. The Jets still sent as many men at the punt as New England would allow.

One might joke that given how bad of a job Kyle Wilson did as a punt returner, the Jets were better off with this look. It did not ultimately hurt much. It still is not a sound strategy and really should be scrapped.

Adding one extra rusher to the punt only incrementally increases the chances of a block. The rushers just do not have much time to get home. We saw that last night. The Jets really did not get close to any punt they came after. Keeping nobody deep, however, can have negative consequences of a much greater degree. Even if a deep man can only fair catch it with no return set up, that act saves yardage. When there is nobody deep, the ball rolls, sometimes a long way costing field position. Blocked punts are so rare that you on average are going to lose yardage with nobody deep playing that way.

What the Jets did is akin to pulling the goalie in hockey for an extra offensive skater. In desperate times when you absolutely need to block a punt (maybe trailing with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter), it might be necessary, but the downside usually outweighs it. You can generate a comparable rush with one less man.

It was puzzling strategy by Ben Kotwica, the new special teams coach, to go to that well so often. He may have studied under Mike Westhoff, but he has to prove himself as a coach in his own right. The graveyard of failed NFL coaches is littered with proteges of great coaches. Two games is far too little on which to judge Kotwica, but he didn't inspire confidence last night and will inspire even less going forward if he doesn't start making better decisions.

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