In this weekend’s “Inside the Numbers,” we’ll spend some time taking a spin around coordinator Brant Boyer’s special teams. The close-up is well-deserved since, the Jets’ specialists, who haven’t fared well in different rankings recently, are near the top of the NFL’s units after three weeks.
By one simple measure, we can take the average of all teams’ rankings in 10 readily available categories — punt return average, kickoff return average, gross punting average, net punting average and field goal percentage, both for and against. By this method, the Jets come in second in the league with an average ranking of 9.95, with only Kansas City’s 6.15 better.
“I think I would probably say the turnaround would be the emphasis being placed a little more on special teams and keeping more special teams players here, bringing in guys like ‘KPL’ [Kevin Pierre-Louis] and [Andre] Roberts and [keeping] Charone Peake and guys like that,” Boyer said. “I think Mike [Maccagnan] and Todd [Bowles] and those guys have done a great job of listening. It’s about the players, and if you have the players, they make you look really good, to be honest with you.”
Here are a few of the players who’ve looked good heading into Sunday’s game at Jacksonville:
Pierre-Louis, despite missing the opener on NFL suspension, has been impactful. “He’s a professional, number one,” said Boyer. “He gets in, studies, does a great job, prepares every week, practices like he plays, and that’s a true sign of a professional. He’s done a fantastic job since he’s been here.”
Pierre-Louis’ 37 special-teams plays the past two games are tied for third on the Jets with Neville Hewitt’s 37 and behind Terrence Brooks’ 43 and Brandon Copeland’s 39 plays. And KPL’s most visible contribution was the “almost” blocked punt at Cleveland. We say almost because, as we reported last week, the revised official scoring removed the block because the batted kick still crossed the line of scrimmage.
“It still counts as a block in my book,” Boyer said.
Roberts is another pro’s pro who returned kicks and punts for four previous teams and is now handling both jobs for the Green & White. His punt return TD at Detroit was the Jets’ first since Jeremy Kerley in 2012, their first on the road since Santana Moss in the 2004 playoffs, and his fourth KR TD (three punts, one kickoff) in the last four seasons. Roberts’ 30.6-yard average on five returns leads the league, including kick-return monster Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs (25.0).
We’ve mentioned Myers’ through-the-roof touchback stats a few times. He’s currently No. 2 in the NFL in TB percentage with 15 on 17 kickoffs (88.2%), as well as No. 1 in the league since 2015 at 77.2%. And although he missed an extra point against Miami, he drilled all five of his field goal tries, including the 55-yarder vs. the Dolphins that equaled the Jets’ home FG distance record.
As an aside, Myers is going back to Jacksonville, where he kicked his first two-plus pro seasons.
“I get to see my buddies that I played with for 2½ years,” Myers told newyorkjets.com‘s Ethan Greenberg. “I know the stadium. It’s probably going to be typical Florida weather with thunderstorms and stuff like that. It’ll be a little different being on the other sideline, but it’ll be fun.”
The Jets’ third-year punter continues to improve. His 47.9-yard gross average is 12th among individuals, his 43.4 net is seventh, and if he can maintain those averages for 16 games, he would shatter both franchise season records for the second straight year.
The Jets haven’t had that many ST tackles yet because of Myers’ touchbacks and only eight of Edwards’ 15 punts being returned (at 8.5 yards/return). The coverage is led by Brooks, Doug Middleton, snapper Thomas Hennessy and Neville Hewitt. Peake as one gunner and Frankie Luvu have also contributed. And it’s worth noting that Josh Martin, last year’s ST tackles leader, has yet to play due to his concussion (although he practiced full this week) and perennial teams standout Rontez Miles remains on Reserve PUP.
Boyer is complimentary toward the Jaguars’ specialists.
“They’re fast, damn good unit, well-coached. Really, I think it’s one of the better units,” he said. “We have our hands full this week.”
But two rankings stand out. Jacksonville’s punt game is 31st in gross average and 28th in net.
“Winning and losing is about field position,” Boyer said. “If you can make their offense go the long, hard road against our defense and if you can create short fields for the offense, that goes a long way toward winning and losing.”