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Jets Special Teams: Anything But

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Carolina Panthers v New York Jets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The special teams unit is such an odd part of a football team. You have to run that unit out there to both set up and finish off the dirty work of the offense and defense. special teams plays are set up and play out much differently than the common football plays, requiring uniquely different skillsets. While you hope they bust the game open with a big play, at the least, you expect them to prevent the opposing special teams from doing the same. If you are not going to be a Special Teams, be an Average Teams. It’s fine if you don’t do anything special. Just don’t let them do it either. Let our primary players decide the game in 11-on-11 football.

Yet, the Jets special teams has failed to do even that yet again. Let’s look at where the Jets are stacking up on Special Teams. Football Outsiders’ DVOA is a solid tool to attach a single number value to special teams performance.

FG/XP Kicking: +4.0 DVOA (12th)

Chandler Catanzaro has had a solid season. He’s connected on 23 of 27 field goals, 85.2%, 17th best of 36 qualifiers and barely above the league average of 84.4%. He’s doing it despite having to kick at increased difficulties. 17 of Catanzaro’s 27 attempts have been from at least 40 yards, a rate of 62.9%. Only 46.6% of field goal attempts league-wide are from that distance. It should also be noted that Catanzaro has made the Jets one of only six teams to connect on all of their extra points this year, a play that is now converted only 94.4% of the time on average.

So, decent job from Catanzaro.

Rank change since last checkup (after Week 9): +7

Kickoff Unit: +1.5 DVOA (10th)

The Jets have been decent on kickoffs. Catanzaro has created touchbacks on 63.6% of his kicks, 10th highest rate in the league. The Jets’ 21.5 yard return average is only 20th best, but is dead on with league average. All in all, this is what you want from a special teams coverage unit. You don’t have to be special. Bend all you want, but just don’t break. Only 3 of 13 opponent returns from inside the end zone have breached the 25-yard line.

Josh Martin is tied for 7th in the league with 6 kickoff tackles, despite missing some time due to injury.

7-week rank change: +2

Punting Unit: -6.6 DVOA (26th)

This is where most of the decline has happened. After a strong start to the year, Lachlan Edwards has really declined, as has this entire group. Edwards was 12th in net punting average at the time of my last special teams piece in November, but is now only 21st of 31 qualifiers. Then 2nd in total punts landed inside the 20, he is now 11th, despite a major spike in opportunities over the last five weeks. He still ranks 11th in distance average, but much of that could do with the Jets’ awful punting position.

The coverage team is giving up 10.4 yards per return, only 25th and above the league average of 8.3. The touchdown they allowed against the Panthers ultimately was a huge difference-maker in costing them that game.

One more interesting note: Edwards has had 42 punts returned, the highest total of any punter, and team, in the league. The league’s best coverage units in terms of yards per return also tend to face fewer returns, and have punters adept at forcing fair catches, something Edwards hasn’t done at a good rate.

Rontez Miles has 8 tackles in punt coverage, 3rd most in the league. Julian Stanford has 7, tying him for the 4th most.

7-week rank change: -18

Kick Return Unit: -1.1 DVOA (17th)

The Jets have averaged 20.8 yards per kick return, 21st in the league and below the league average of 21.5.

Here’s another interesting way of looking at it. You get the 25 if you take a touchback. So, how often are Jets kick returns out of the end zone getting past that mark? Let’s include penalties and take into account where the return is ending, not the total amount of yardage which would count the “fake” yards gained in the end zone.

The Jets have returned 15 kickoffs that were a distance of at least 65 yards, meaning 15 returns of which the alternate was a free 25 yards. On those returns, they’ve returned the ball to the 21.4 yard line on average, passing the 25 only 27% of the time. That shows that when it comes time for Jets returners to make a decision and then a play, they’re providing negative value.

7-week rank change: -6

Punt Return Unit: -10.2 (32nd)

This unit is a prime example of the failure in the “bend but don’t break” ideology by the Jets special teams. If you aren’t going to bust out 50 yard touchdowns, fine. Just don’t give the other team the ball.

The Jets haven’t done that. They’ve had giveaways in the punt game in two key situations this year; Kalif Raymond in Oakland while the score was still close and Jeremy Kerley against Atlanta. Both turned out to be losses. Even though it’s only two plays, that is plenty enough to dilute the value of a unit for the entire year. You just can’t make those mistakes. The Jets don’t make up for it with playmaking, either. Their 4.7 yard return average is 31st in the league.

7-week rank change: 0 (was last, still last!)

Poll

Should ST coordinator Brant Boyer be brought back?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Yes
    (47 votes)
  • 50%
    No
    (77 votes)
  • 17%
    Doesn’t matter since special teams performance doesn’t depend on coaching
    (27 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now

What do you think of the Jets special teams going forward?