New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Special Teams

A New York Jets kicking competition is set to commence under the watch of the seemingly immortal coordinator Brant Boyer.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Our look back on the offseason comes to an end by wrapping up with special teams…

New York Jets, Jason Myers
Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

Much has been made about the constant turnover in the Jets’ franchise quarterback role. But compared to what’s happened in the kicker’s role, that role is among the stable in football.

Since Jason Myers’ historic 2018 campaign…and after the Jets let him abscond to Seattle without much resistance…six different kickers (three alone during the 2019 preseason) have tried and failed to pick up where he left off. Lacking a reliable kicker for two straight seasons is always unacceptable, but missing one during a would-be franchise quarterback developmental years is gridiron doomsday.

Sam Ficken, to his credit, was refreshingly close to ending the trend. His three-point attempts were the one thing that was going right for the Jets over the opening portions of their 2020 season, converting each of his first nine attempts (five alone coming in a nationally televised showdown against Denver). But a groin injury suffered in October derailed his season, forcing the Jets to turn to CFL/XFL veteran Sergio Castillo before staging a meaningless finale with Chase McLaughlin.

Sixth-round pick Braden Mann was one of the busiest men in football last season. He was called upon to punt it away a league-high 82 times, but his 43.9 average was 28th in football. While the Jets would like to see him move up the stat ledger (though, ideally, he won’t be on the field as often this season), Mann did manage to go somewhat viral for some touchdown saving tackles.

In the return game, receiver Braxton Berrios has been reliable on punts. Over the last two seasons, Berrios is one of six returners (min. 30 attempts) to average at least 10 yards (fifth-best at 10.5). On kicks, Giants draft pick and cornerback Corey Ballentine was a pleasant surprise as a late arrival, averaging over 26 yards per return over the last six weeks.

Long snapper Thomas Hennessy lived up to the four-year extension he earned in the midst of the 2019 season and completed another incident-free season.

jets, michael carter

How It’s Going

Never mind cockroaches; when the apocalypse comes, Brant Boyer might be the last living thing to stick it out. The special teams coordinator was the sole survivor of the post-Adam Gase coaching purge, having also survived the erasure of Todd Bowles’ army.

“So many people called on his his behalf,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Boyer in January, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “He’s held in such high regard.”

The Jets spent this offseason delivering Boyer some welcome back gifts. He was particularly excited about the arrival of cornerback Justin Hardee, who became one of the NFL’s most respected gunners in New Orleans. Hardee was added on a three year deal and will certainly help a punt return unit that allowed over 11 yards a return last season, the sixth-worst mark in the league. In comparison, Hardee’s Saints allowed less than three.

“I was ecstatic on that one,” Boyer said in video from the Jets. “We played 13 different gunners last year, so it was a real struggle.” Boyer was also pleased about the leadership role Hardee took in the specialists’ room. “He’s been fantastic, and what he’s done is he’s taken over a leadership role in the room, and that’s what the biggest thing we needed in our room especially losing a bunch of our core guys and things like that.”

“We just need somebody to emerge at that other gunner, so they can’t double (Hardee) every time…we’ll see what happens, which I fully expect someone will do.”

The answer to Boyer’s quandary could lie within the latter rounds of the draft. Defensive project and sixth round pick Hamsah Nasirildeen was an elite gunner during his freshman year at Florida State (seven tackles in special teams coverage) while Brandin Echols served in specialist duties during his JUCO days.

In the return game, Berrios should be retained on punts, while Ballentine could face competition on kickoffs from running backs Michael Carter (24.5 average in his junior year at North Carolina) and Ty Johnson (27.2 in his senior year at Maryland).

Ficken was waived in December but was retained on a future deal. He’ll face competition from undrafted rookie Chris Naggar (AAC Special Teams Player of the Year at Southern Methodist) to retain his role. New York Jets, Sam Ficken

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

As the Jets try to return to relevancy, they can’t overlook their special teams group. They’re preparing to embark on yet another quarterback development adventure with Zach Wilson as the lead protagonist and special teams can make an immediate difference in terms of helping him earn wins and losses.

When the new quarterback reaches opposing territory, a reliable kicker can ensure such drives end with points, building his confidence. If Mann takes a step forward and Hardee lives up to his sterling gunner reputation, the opponent can start in dire straits, and make the defense’s job a lot easier.

Much like his work on the offensive line, it’s good to see that general manager Joe Douglas is willing to valuable offseason capital on special teams, though it’s time for the arrivals to start rewarding his faith on the field. Adding elite, proven names in the arena like Hardee and Carter losses the pressure.

Final Offseason Grade: B-

How do you think the Jets’ special teams contribute to their resurgence? Follow Geoff Magliocchetti on Twitter @GeoffJMags and keep the conversation going.

The New York Jets must fix their kicking situation now

The New York Jets have been through six different legs since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle. The next one must last.

Even with a decent free agency haul, the New York Jets still have holes to fill with the NFL Draft looming large. Contending in a crowded AFC…one whose East division likely belongs to Buffalo for the time being and one packed with established contenders…might be difficult anyway even if all those needs are satisfied.

The Jets’ first choice, second only to Jacksonville on April 29, will undoubtedly be used on a quarterback, many presuming the choice to be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Afterward, however, there’s a lot of flexibility, especially with nine further picks in a surplus gained through trading Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Sam Darnold, and Jordan Willis. The Jets can thus upgrade areas of major need, such as the gaps in their blocking and secondary.

But there’s one underrated area where the Jets are in desperate need of help: their kicking game.

One could be excused in overlooking the current situation. The Jets, losers of ten games decided by at least two possessions, didn’t drop any games because of a missed kick, after all. But having a reliable leg at this point of the franchise timeline is supremely vital.

For one thing, having this much turnover in a position that often takes up a single slot on the gameday depth chart is troubling. Since 2019 Pro Bowl nominee Jason Myers absconded to Seattle, the Jets have gone through a disturbingly jaw-dropping six kickers, including those who appeared only in preseason games. But the biggest reason why the Jets need to settle this is the sake of their offense.

In a modern NFL that worships a fantasy football deity, the Jets have lagged behind. In the highest-scoring season in NFL history (teams averaged 24.8 points per game, breaking a record set in 1948), the Jets ranked dead-last at an average of 15.2. New York was also dead-last in another vital category: only 16 of their (again, league-low) 38 visits to the red zone ended in a touchdown.

Time will only tell if the Jets will be able to raise any of those numbers this season. But, even with the potential of Wilson (or another rookie party like Justin Fields), there’s no doubt it’ll be tough to build on it with a freshman thrower in tow. But this year of building must end with an offense full of confidence as they try to end this perpetual rebuild. The perfect way to build that poise and assertiveness is by ensuring that drives that end within the opponents’ 20-yard-line yield points. When you’re a team that has had issues…and might continue to have issues…getting balls in the end zone, a good kicker is a must.

Right now, it’s debatable as to whether the Jets have that. They have two kickers on the roster, the most recent pair of the aforementioned six. A competition is all but assured to assume once training camp commences this summer. Each one returns from last year’s roster, with Sam Ficken, the two-year incumbent, coming back on a future/reserve contract and Chase McLaughlin being retained from the Week 17 trip to New England, meaningless if not for being the final stand of Adam Gase.

Both Ficken and McLaughlin could stick around in the NFL for a while. Ficken has floated around in gameday rosters since 2015, while McLaughlin has racked up frequent flier miles as an injury replacement since entering the league four years later. Though McLaughlin has a minuscule sample size (converting two extra point attempts in the aforementioned futile Foxboro visit), Ficken established a new career-high by converting just over 86 percent of triples (13-of-15). The Penn State alum well could’ve been the Jets’ long-term solution, but a groin injury sustained in November could prove concerning.

What the Jets need right now is a reliable, proven leg, one where fans don’t have to hold their breath as long when his name is called. It’s probably too late to turn to free agency to solve that problem. The most reliable available name, Ryan Succop, re-upped with the defending champions while veteran Matt Prater moved from Detroit to Arizona. What’s left is a group of names past their prime (Dan Bailey/Stephen Gostkowski) or inconsistent (Brett Maher/Zane Gonzalez).

Thus, the means toward a solution may come from an unusual source: the NFL Draft.

It’s true that the Jets could probably scour the undrafted free agent wire to add to the special teams festivities at camp. Four of the five most accurate kickers last season (the exception being Mason Crosby) were, after all, UDFA finds. But the Jets need to be confident in the name they have going forward, unlike the 2019 season. The team scooped up former Minnesota preseason hero Kaare Vedvik mere days before their season opener against Buffalo. Vedvik lasted just one game in green, missing an extra point and a field goal, the indirect difference in a 17-16 loss to the Bills.

In this era, the Jets need a proven name that has succeeded at a high level of football, and this year’s selection pool has some strong names to work with. Reigning Lou Groza Award winner Jose Borregales perhaps headlines the class out of Miami, while his fellow finalist Evan McPherson hails from Florida. Senior Bowl standout Riley Patterson from Memphis could also hear his name called during the four-round, final day process on May 1.

Drafting a kicker often gains your team only postmortem mockery in the immediate aftermath. Tampa Bay’s aforementioned Super Bowl triumph may only now finally end the Roberto Aguayo jokes after they chose the Florida State booter in the second round in 2016. The Jets themselves endured some of this the last time they opted for a leg in the draft, shockingly choosing Mike Nugent with their second-round choice (47th overall) in 2005 (passing on future Pro Bowlers like Nick Collins, Vincent Jackson, and Frank Gore).

This time around, though, the Jets can afford such a risk. That’s part of the gifts that come with ten draft picks, a surplus gained through trading several franchise staples. Quantity, as the Jets found out through John Idzik’s doomed dozen in 2014, doesn’t always equal quality, so they have to make the most of the extras granted to them. Drafting a kicker might be a great way to do that. There’s obviously no need to go the Nugent route…there are far greater holes to fill…but using one of their later picks could be a good way to find an immediate contributor and gain some consistency at a position where there’s been endless turnover.

Using a draft pick on special teams and valuing the group isn’t unheard of in this new era of Jets football. In his first draft at the helm, general manager Joe Douglas used his final choice on punter Braden Mann and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer is a rare survivor of the purge of Gase’s coaching staff, having also survived that of Todd Bowles’ group. Douglas knows that football is a three-pronged game, and getting the right guy at the vital positions is going to be crucial to building what he and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Drafting a kicker’s an unusual situation in any NFL era. But desperate times, times that would welcome even the simplest form of football stability, call for unusual measures.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets add CB/specialist Justin Hardee (Report)

New York Jets

Hardee worked as a special teams standout over the last four years in New Orleans before signing a three-year deal with the New York Jets.

Per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, the New York Jets are set to sign cornerback Justin Hardee to a three-year deal. Hardee, an undrafted fifth-year man out of Illinois, has developed a strong reputation as one of the better special teams defenders in the league.

Hardee, 27, is officially listed as a cornerback but has truly made a name for himself on special teams. He has earned 44 special tackles over the past four seasons, including eight in 2020. Hardee is likely best known for taking a blocked punt back for a touchdown in a 2017 win over Tampa Bay, an endeavor that earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Though Hardee has only 115 defensive snaps to his name in the NFL, he also earned an interception during a Monday night win over Washington in 2018.

Formerly a receiver in college (earning 841 yards and a touchdown over four seasons with the Illini), Hardee knows what it’s like to pull off some special teams trickery at MetLife Stadium. During a September 2018 win over the Giants, Hardee united with Taysom Hill to earn a fourth-down conversion through a fake punt that continued an eventual New Orleans scoring drive.

The defender partook in 10 games last season, missing six due to a groin injury that put him in injured reserve.

Hardee should help the Jets’ coverage game, one that needed punter Braden Mann to pull off touchdown-saving-tackles. The Jets were one of nine teams to allow over 10 yards on opposing punt returns, finishing sixth-worst at 11.7. In their purge of Adam Gase’s staff, the Jets retained special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, who has held the role since the Todd Bowles regime.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Special teams

ESM’s New York Jets offseason preview concludes by analyzing the special teams, which welcomes back overseer Brant Boyer.

The Position: Special Teams
On the Roster: P Braden Mann, LS Tom Hennessy, K Chase McLaughlin
Free Agents: N/A
Reserve/Future: K Sam Ficken

As the New York Jets have abandoned their coaching ship twice over the past three years, Brant Boyer has proven unsinkable.

The Jets’ special teams coordinator is about to embark on a journey with his third coaching group, having survived the respective purgings of Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s staffs. Boyer has overseen the development of Pro Bowlers (sending two, Jason Myers and Andre Roberts, in 2018) and has often been floated by fans as an interim boss once they get tired of the regular man in change.

“So many people have called on his behalf.” head coach Robert Saleh said of Boyer’, per notes provided by the Jets. “He’s held in such high regard.” Saleh eventually made the decision to retain Boyer to his new staff, a rare holdover from Gase’s group.

The retainment comes at a time where strong special teams are more vital than ever. New York is desperate for offensive traction but must work with what it can in these trying times. Whether it’s pinning an opponent deep when a driver sputters out or making the most of a drive that reaches fourth down in enemy territory via a field goal, the Jets need to make sure their special teams are ready to go.

While one area seems to be settled…rookie Braden Mann earned positive reviews at punter, and gained a cult following for his propensity to make touchdown-saving tackles…the Jets have been looking for a solution at kicker ever since Myers shipped off to Seattle. Including preseason contests, six different kickers have filled the role since the 2019 season began. There was three alone last season, as injuries and inconsistency forced Sam Ficken from the post. The Jets got by with Sergio Castillo and Chase McLaughlin for the remainder of the year.

Also back for another year is long snapper Thomas Hennessy, who has spent the last four years in the role incident-free. Receiver Braxton Berrios had primary punt return duties, while former Giants defensive draft pick Corey Ballentine later took over affairs on the kickoff.

Free Agents-to-be

None

Will They Draft?

After using their final choice of Mann last season, it’s definitely possible the Jets could use one of their day three picks on another leg, this one of the more offensive type. Last season was a bit of a struggle for the top prospect Evan McPherson, but other options arose through Miami’s Jose Borregales (18-of-20, long of 57) and Riley Patterson of Memphis, who struggled as a senior but posted sellar numbers the year prior.

Veteran Possibilities

Younghoe Koo, Atlanta

Born in South Korea and raised in Ridgewood, NJ, Koo has been one of the more inspiring stories in recent NFL history. He memorably executed three successful onside kicks during a Thanksgiving 2019 tilt in New Orleans and led the NFL with 37 made field goals last season (on 39 attempts). Koo was also the NFL’s leading scorer at 144 points, tied with fellow kickers Daniel Carlson of Las Vegas and Jason Sanders in Miami.

Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay

Mr. Irrevelant was anything but for the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers this season. The final pick of the 2009 NFL Draft recovered very well after knee surgery, tying a career-best best with 136 points and converting all nine of his postseason triple attempts en route to the Big Game.

Jamal Agnew, Detroit

If the Jets are looking to spice up their return game, or at least create some competition, they can turn to Agnew, who has likewise played offense and defense during his time with the Lions. Agnew would have to work on his ball control, but double-digit averages on both kicks and punts are nothing to scoff at.

Outlook

For the third straight year, the Jets are going to spend the offseason looking for a new kicker. It’s possible that endeavor can be solved in the spring by signing someone like Koo or Succop, or create competition with the draft. Either way, that situation must be resolved sooner rather than later. With punter and long snapper accounted for,

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: New York Jets to retain Brant Boyer as ST coordinator

New York Jets

Boyer, who joined the New York Jets in 2016, is currently the only holdover from both the Adam Gase and Todd Bowles eras.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the New York Jets will keep Brant Boyer as their special teams coordinator under head coach Robert Saleh. Boyer, 49, is set to survive the purgings of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s staffs.

The Arizona alum entered coaching in 2012, nearly a decade after his playing career ended. Boyer was a sixth-round choice of the Miami Dolphins in 1994 and played 10 seasons, a majority with Jacksonville (1995-2000). He previously served as a special teams assistant in Indianapolis (2012-15).

Under Boyer’s watch, the Jets sent two specialists to the Pro Bowl during the 2018 season (kicker Jason Myers and returner Andre Roberts). Since Roberts’ departure for Buffalo, Boyer has placed returners in the top 10 in average runback. Braxton Berrios was second in average punt return in 2019 (11.4) while midseason acquisition Corey Ballentine was seventh in kicks this past season (24.0). Notably, defensive lineman Henry Anderson also blocked three kicks over three straight games during the 2018 campaign.

“He understands and trusts us to get ready for Sunday,” Myers said of Boyer during the 2018 season. “In our room, he has a lot of trust for us. It puts you in a good mindset to go out there and just kick the way you want to kick on Sundays.”

“He expects the best out of us every day. He demands a lot, and he cares about each as people as well, off the field,” longer snapper Thomas Hennessy added in that same timeframe. “To have a coach like that, who wants excellence on the field and cares about you as a person off the field, makes you want to play that much for the coach.”

Saleh has continued to fill out the assistants on his staff since his hiring on January 14. During his opening statements last week, Saleh confirmed that fellow former San Francisco compatriot Mike LaFleur would serve as the team’s offensive coordinator while ex-Atlanta assistant Jeff Ulbrich would take over the defense. Ulbrich’s duties will include defensive playcalling.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 moves the New York Jets should make right now

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The New York Jets are a floundering mess, and if you’ve watched the inept in every category this season, you know that. One look at their 0-7 record shows change is desperately needed for the organization. We all would love to take the reigns of this mess and try to put the team back on the right tracks, but in this scenario, I made three moves that would immediately benefit the team.

Trade Avery Willamson

This is a move I was very against prior to the season, but now the move makes a lot of sense. Well, the team won’t fetch a lot for Willamson, the team is not competitive right now, and they should give the opportunity to younger guys to step up in Willamson’s absence.

Not to mention, Willamson has been an avid critic of how poorly the team has been practicing, which was likely viewed as defiance from Adam Gase. Mix in the fact that Willamson himself deserves a shot to play with a competitive team, so this is a move that would not be a bad idea. Pittsburgh just lost Devin Bush for the year, so Williamson could fit there among other potential spots. I would expect the compensation to be in the later rounds, but those are the picks Joe Douglas loves.

Willamson is still a fan favorite, but if he ends up elsewhere, it would be best for both parties. The Jets could look to other players as trade assets as well, but Willamson is the first guy I would set to trade based on how much value he brings.

Fire Adam Gase

So, this is the obvious move we would all make if we could. I want to preface this by saying that Adam Gase may be utterly incompetent, stubborn, unimaginative, and undisciplined. Yet despite those flaws and the many others, Gase has somehow got himself this job and likely will keep it at least a few more weeks.

At 0-7, this team is not playing for anything, but at least if they fired Gase, they could audition a prospective head coach and not who you would think. I will get to that in a second, but this move would at least revitalize the team and finally allow Douglas to build the franchise the way he would like without the tight reigns of Gase.

Coaching Re-alignment

I would immediately make a few key coaching changes if given the shot. I would promote Dowell Loggains to the lead offensive play-caller for the remainder of the season, contingent on two more good games.

If the offense continues to look lifeless, then I would choose RB Coach Jim Bob Cooter to take over due to his coordinating past in Detroit. As for the defensive side of the ball, I would like to see Gregg Williams ousted with Gase, but if he were to remain, then the team needs to give Dennard Wilson a promotion. He should earn more responsibilities to see if he has potential as a coordinator in his own right.

If Williams were fired, then I would make Wilson the DC immediately. So, I have not named an interim head coach. Those honors would be placed upon the shoulders of Current Special Teams Coordinator Brant Boyer. Boyer is the only other fixture in the organization who has been here for more than three years. Boyer has resurrected special teams in New York, but more importantly, he has shown discipline. In brief glimpses of his character, he would fit the type of structure Douglas would seemingly want. Boyer may not be the guy, but for at least the last couple of games, I’d love for him to get a shot at what he can prove.

New York Jets: Four silver linings from a brutal first quarter

At 0-4 and both the head coach and franchise quarterback on the hot seat, the New York Jets have little to celebrate, but not all is dreary.

Autumn in New York, as Billie Holiday originally sang, is “often mingled with pain”. That appears to be the case in New Jersey as well, at least on the gridiron.

We’re a quarter of the way through the 2020 NFL season, and the New York Jets sit at 0-4 at the quarter mark. As lifeless as the Jets have looked…the fact that their average margin of defeat is “only” 14 points might count as a proverbial win…things might get progressively worse. In addition to a Sunday matchup against the Arizona Cardinals (1 p.m. ET, Fox), the next few weeks feature get-togethers against upstart teams (LA Chargers), playoff contenders (Buffalo, New England), and even the defending, red-hot Super Bowl champions (Kansas City).

Yet, if one looks closely at the 2020 Jets…and you could hardly be blamed for keeping your (social) distance…they can glean some specific positives that should have fans excited for the rest of this season…and potentially beyond.

Mekhi Becton

It feels like ten different networks broadcast the NFL Draft these days…Disney XD simulcasted the most recent Pro Bowl, so maybe they’re next into the fold…but all of them seem to unite around the common theme of lampooning the Jets’ first-round choices. Even the ones they hit are subject to satire, as producers gleefully share footage of Matt Leinart-adoring fans booing the Jets’ selection of Mekhi Becton.

Lately, the Jets have provided fodder for those segments. Darnold and Quinnen Williams could well be on their way to first-round infamy. Their day one brothers Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams have already been sent elsewhere via trades. But, so far, Mekhi Becton is blocking those detractors, literally and figuratively.

Becton is turning into a cornerstone on the much-maligned, perpetually rebuilding offensive line. Because the Jets aren’t allowed to have nice things, injuries and controversy have already snuck into his career…namely over whether Becton should’ve been used in Thursday’s loss to Denver after suffering a shoulder ailment four days prior in Indianapolis…but the early on-field returns are promising. Through the first two weeks, Pro Football Focus had Becton as the best-graded offensive rookie amongst all positions. Even at half-strength against the Broncos, Becton managed to look strong, vindicating the Jets’ decision to pass on several high-profile receivers to take him 11th overall last spring. A lot of questions pepper the Jets’ future. If things hold up, Becton’s spot on the blind side of the quarterback, be it Darnold or otherwise, won’t be one of them.

Jamison Crowder

Crowder had established him as a serviceable slot option over four seasons in Washington. In New York, he’s been a consistent bright spot over the past two difficult seasons. Last season, Crowder led the Jets in all major receiving categories. He’s only appeared in two games this season, but he seems well on his way to repeating the feat. The century mark in yardage has been broken in each of his two games thus far, and he’s also responsible for the longest play of the Jets’ season, a 69-yard scoring hookup with Darnold in the Week 1 visit to Buffalo.

A good portion of this modern Jets rebuild is focusing on young players etching a role for themselves in the future. But the 27-year-old Crowder is transforming himself into the reliable veteran role player prescience that championship teams crave. It’s a role comparable to, say, Sammy Watkins in Kansas City. In his second year on the team, Crowder might as well be an established New York veteran at this point. A potential free agent after this season (he signed for three years, but has a potential out at $1 million in dead cap), Crowder has turned himself into one of the players allowed to stick around for the potential glory days ahead.

Sam Darnold’s Mobility

Enough has been written about whether Darnold is still the Jets’ franchise man under center. There are 13 weeks, including a bye, left in this dreary season, so we certainly can’t promise that you won’t see any more articles about the concept.

But one thing that has changed for the better when it comes to Darnold is his mobility. We saw brief flashes of it toward the end of last season…that rollout touchdown to Crowder against Baltimore comes to mind…but Darnold has earned satirical comparisons to Lamar Jackson in the way he’s improved this year.

Thursday night brought this concept to the forefront when Darnold earned a career-best 63 rushing yards, 46 of which came on a long touchdown run on New York’s opening drive. We’ve seen Darnold extend plays by escaping onslaughts f the pocket and finding Braxton Berrios for scores.

Time will tell if Darnold remains under center for 2021 and beyond…heck, an injury sustained in the Denver game has his status for Arizona in question. But his developed mobile talents certainly make a case for his sticking around.

Special Teams

Coaches have come and gone since his arrival in 2016, but special teams coordinator Brant Boyer has made himself eternal. One look at his modern unit shows why.

The Jets’ special teams had to be on their game even before 2020 unleashed their scary surprises. With an offense struggling to find itself and a defense missing two of its top representatives, it would crucial for returns to set up good field position and punts to make things difficult for the offense. Field goals could help a meandering offense end drives on a positive note.

So far, the components have thrived in their respective roles. Sixth-round pick Braden Mann’s punting numbers aren’t lighting up the rest of the league, but he’s become a reliable name on the Jets’ roster while slowly getting things together on the NFL level. He earned a season-best 48.7 yards per boot on Thursday and even made a touchdown-saving tackle in the second half. Josh Malone is averaging 20 yards a return, seventh-best in the AFC. Most importantly, Sam Ficken, 30th in three-point conversion rate last season, has been literally flawless in the early going. He’s one of eight kickers to hit all of his attempts (8-for-8). Of that tally, only Jason Sanders in Miami has hit more (9). If the Jets do what most fans expect and fire Gase, Boyer would make for an intriguing and well-deserved interim boss.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Can the New York Jets extract the best from former CFL star Anthony Cioffi?

New York Jets, Anthony Cioffi

Can the New York Jets find gold in CFL standout Anthony Cioffi?

Anthony Cioffi was just your typical Jersey boy. Except he’s a freak athlete. Oh, and he was a 2012 state champion in the 100-meter dash, excelled at football, and earned honors there. Ultimately, he ended up at Rutgers and, you guessed it — excelled there with 122 tackles, eight interceptions, and 2.5 sacks in 122 games. Surprisingly, he went undrafted and signed with the Raiders following the 2017 draft. Cioffi didn’t make the team out of training camp and ended up in the CFL. While there, he made a name for himself.

Cioffi Controlled the CFL

In 33 games, Cioffi had 97 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 3 FFs, and 2 INTs. Cioffi was a hybrid defensive back and was used all over the field. His impressive speed allowed him to be used just about anywhere on the field.

Cioffi built a reputation as one of the best defensive players in Canada. He succeeded in a hybrid role, as a linebacker, he had great sideline to sideline ability. As a safety, he was dominant in coverage and tackling. Cioffi projects as a safety with Gang Green mainly because he’s undersized to be a linebacker at the pro level.

Cioffi’s Fit With the Jets

Cioffi could play a few roles for the Jets. The Jets could use more special teams depth, and his speed would make him an immediate asset. As a gunner, he could use his speed to make the tackles which he’s also good at. As a safety, he could make the roster because of his upside. With the Jets’ current safety issues in regards to Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye needing a new deal soon, if a trade occurs or a surprise move, Cioffi could gain some playing time.

The more reps Cioffi gains, the more he could shine. Looking at his playstyle, Cioffi could be an attractive scheme fit under Gregg Williams’s defense. However, his fit within special teams will likely be his best selling point to make the roster.

New York Jets Special Teams’ Coach Brant Boyer is a Miracle Worker

New York Jets, Jason Myers

New York Jets Special Teams coach Brant Boyer may be the best in the NFL.

The Jets hired Brant Boyer to be their special teams’ coach in 2016. It was his first coordinator job in the NFL. He had spent four years with the Colts as the assistant special teams’ coach but had no other coaching experience.

It was a surprise hire, but nobody thought much of it. Special teams don’t really matter in the NFL is a prevailing thought amongst most fans. The Jets and their fans are different though.

They know what it’s like to have an elite special team coach, and how that can change the game. Mike Westhoff is a legendary special teams coach who was with the Jets for 12 seasons. He helped change the culture during his time with the team.

He lived through three coaching changes but retired in 2012 during Rex Ryan‘s tenure. that was the first year of the Jets long playoff drought.

After Westhoff, the Jets went through three special teams’ coaches in three years. In 2016 Boyer became the fourth special teams coordinator in four years. He was tasked with fixing a broken unit. Since Westhoff left the Jets ranked 10th, 16th, and 25th the following three years.

A far cry from the glory days of Westhoff’s unit. When Boyer was brought in for 2016 the Jets lacked so much on special teams. His first move was to fight to get a punter in the draft. He somehow convinced the Jets to draft Australian punter out of Sam Houston State Lac Edwards.

A move that has turned out to be phenomenal. Under Boyer’s guidance, Lac Edwards has developed into a top 10 punter in the NFL. He is also statistically the best punter in New York Jets history. In 2019  Edwards is fifth in the NFL in net punt yards and fourth in punts pinned inside the 20.

Even more impressive is his work with kickers. He has made every kicker he’s worked with over-perform their career averages. Including getting a scrap heap pickup in Jason Myers to second-team all-pro.

After the disaster that was finding a kicker and returner for the 2019 season, Boyer deserves credit. It’s easy to be the top team in special teams DVOA when you have an all-pro kicker and returner in 2018 as Boyer did.

However, it’s another to rank third in special teams DVOA despite losing those players. Not only that, but the guys brought in have equaled or outperformed his former all-pros.

In 2019 Jason Myers has hit just 73.7% of his field goals and 93.1% of his extra points. Meanwhile, the Jets kicker Sam Ficken has hit 70% of field goals and 100% of field goals. Ficken has also not missed a kick of less than 53 yards this year, while Myers is just 81% from inside 50 yards.

As for returners Jets punt returner Braxton Berrios is averaging 7.4 yards per punt return compared to Andre Roberts 6.9 yards in Buffalo this year. On the kick return front, Andre Roberts is averaging 28.4 yards per return, compared to the Jets primary kick returner Vyncint Smith who is averaging 37.8 yards.

It’s time that Brant Boyer got his due. He’s been overlooked for far too long. This man is one of if not the best special teams coach in the NFL.