After playing in what he called the most challenging conditions of his nine-year professional career, Andre Roberts will surely be ready for whatever comes his way in the Windy City.
Delivering an honest assessment of his performance against the Vikings, Roberts flatly said it was up and down. Roberts, who fumbled twice and misjudged a punt, also had two kickoff returns of 40+ yards. And his 201 kickoff-return yards against Minnesota were the most by a Jets KR since Justin Miller had 221 in the 2005 season finale vs. Buffalo.
“Two-hundred yards in the kickoff-return game, which you really like. But in the punt-return game, not much going on, a muffed punt,” Roberts said on this week’s installment of Inside the Jets. “Fortunately, we got that back, but that’s the kind of up and down I was thinking about.”
Although the elements were less than favorable with cool temps and swirling wind gusts at MetLife Stadium, inclement weather will continue to appear down the stretch for the Green & White. The early forecast for Sunday in Chicago is a 50% chance of rain and wind gusts at 13 MPH.
“It was a windy game,” Roberts said of an uneven special teams effort in Week 7. “We take it with a grain of salt and understand what the elements were and what we had to deal with. But we also understand we’re going to have some windy games coming up soon. All the games through the end of the season are outside.”
An under the radar signing in March, Roberts leads the NFL with five returns (two kick and three punt) of 40+ yards this season and he is the first Jet returner to register multiple 40+yard kick and punt returns since JoJo Townsell accomplished it in 1987.
“The thing about being a returner that’s different from offense is that everybody knows you’re going to get the ball.” Roberts said. “It’s not like a couple guys are coming after you, it’s all 10 or 11, if you include in the kicker. That’s one thing I do take a lot of pride in and know I have a big responsibility for this team.”
Roberts, whose 399 yards as a kick returner rank second in the NFL, is atop the punt return leaders in terms of yardage (245) and average (18.8). The Jets have dramatically improved on special teams in 2018 and Roberts has been pivotal with his explosiveness and fearlessness. He doesn’t intend to have any wind slow him down over the team’s final nine games.
“Last week, if you were outside at all, it was windy all week. We got a little bit of work with that, but I put that on myself,” he said of Sunday’s inconsistency. “I have to practice that and get better with that. Sometimes it’s a little inconsistent with the wind especially like the way it was gusting on Sunday, but you have to catch them all.”
Roberts carries that same attitude with him on offense. The Jets continue to move pieces around at receiver and Roberts had a pair of receptions against the Vikings. He thought he could have got out of his route quicker on Sam Darnold’s second interception and he plans on being ready when called upon.
“I’ve been preparing every week as if I was going to play, going to start. Obviously being behind those guys, you don’t get the same reps just like a backup quarterback or a backup running back doesn’t get the same amount of reps as the starters,” he said. “But I always prepare like I will be a starter and myself and others have to step up.”
With veteran Rishard Matthews added this week, Roberts potentially could see less game action at receiver. But he is one of the league’s most dynamic return men and he’ll take aim at a Bears coverage unit that surrendered 14 points last week including a Cordarrelle Patterson 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“We take it as a challenge every week. We don’t take anything lightly regardless of what they did last week, last year or who they have,” Roberts said. “We take everybody like they’re the best special teams and we have to beat them all.”