The New York Jets special teams was a mixed bag on Sunday in the team’s 37-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. What final grade did the unit ultimately earn?
The New York Jets special teams unit has been one of the most surprising and encouraging aspects of the entire team to this point. But on Sunday, Jets fans got a little reminder of past failures due to some questionable decisions and treacherous weather conditions.
To quote the classic Katy Perry song, the Jets special teams was “Hot n’ Cold” with multiple great plays getting unfortunately offset by a few boneheaded moves.
The performance of return man Andre Roberts is the perfect microcosm of the performance of the entire special teams unit on Sunday. Roberts returned a pair of kicks for over 40 yards but also narrowly avoided disaster on a number of occasions in the return game.
His first mistake came at the very beginning of the second quarter when the veteran returner called for a fair catch late and ultimately ended up muffing the punt. Fortunately for the Jets, Roberts was able to wrestle the ball away and retain possession.
In all fairness, the wind on Sunday wreaked havoc all afternoon for both teams so it’s fair to give Roberts a pass given the incredible season he has been having. But at the same time, the muffed punt wasn’t Roberts only blunder in the game.
Later, the former Atlanta Falcon was returning a kick when the ball popped loose. Once again, fortune was in the Jets favor as the ball rolled out of bounds but in this case, there was no wind to blame.
Roberts also questionably let a ball go over his head on a punt earlier in the game which ended up costing the team about 20 additional yards of field position. Again, the wind likely played a factor as Roberts certainly wasn’t eager to try and catch the ball in the windy conditions but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t a picture perfect afternoon for the talented return man.
At the same time, Roberts did return a kick for 53 yards late in the third quarter and then returned another one for 42 yards early in the fourth quarter. Through seven weeks, the 30-year old special teams ace ranks first in the NFL in punt return yards and yards per return while ranking second in kick return yards.
If the season ended today, Roberts would be a safe pick for a Pro Bowl slot which is significantly better than the Jets expected out of him to begin the season. Sunday may not have been his finest showing, but the impact he has brought to the Jets special teams unit has been undeniable.
Elsewhere in the positive spectrum (or the Katy Perry “Hot” spectrum), kicker Jason Myers continued his stellar season connecting on both of his extra point attempts and nailing a 55-yard attempt.
Oh and remember that wind? Myers was kicking into it, not with it.
Kickers are some of the streakiest players in all of professional sports and it’s safe to say that Myers is right in the middle of a blazing hot streak at the moment. Unfortunately, the remainder of the Jets special teams had trouble dealing with the elements on top of making a few foolish mistakes.
Long snapper Thomas Hennessy was guilty of two different low snaps in the game, one of which was too low for punter Lachlan Edwards to handle. Edwards subsequently rushed the kick and ended up shanking it for a whopping 28-yard punt. To make matters worse, the Jets were penalized with an ineligible blocker downfield due to Edwards delayed kick.
While it’s fair to give the team a pass on that penalty, this was far from the only infraction issued against the special teams unit in the game. In fact, on the very first play of the game, reserve special teamer Tarell Basham was called for an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff.
To make matters worse, it was the first official snap of Basham’s Jets career. Not the greatest first impression to make, to say the least.
Later in the game, Chris Herndon was penalized for an illegal double-team block on a kick return and Trenton Cannon was guilty of running out of bounds on a punt return without being touched and coming back on to the field. Both of those penalties are simple, technical mistakes that ultimately falls on the coaching staff.
Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer deserves a lot of credit for how well the special teams unit has performed to this point but the penalties in this game added up and ultimately hurt the Jets in the field position battle. Altogether, despite some big plays in the return game from Roberts and another great showing from Myers, the Jets special teams made too many mistakes and put together perhaps their worst performance of the season.