New York Jets bring back veteran TE Daniel Brown

The New York Jets announced the return of the veteran tight end Brown, who will embark on his third year in green.

The New York Jets announced the re-signing of tight end Daniel Brown on Monday morning. Terms and figures of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Brown, set to turn 29 in May, will return for a third metropolitan season, having signed with the team as a free agent in March 2019. His previous NFL endeavors came in Baltimore and Chicago after going undrafted out of James Madison. He is mostly known for his special teams efforts, partaking in a career-high 76 percent of such snaps last season.

In his listed position of tight end, Brown has been used as a blocker but has earned 103 yards on 13 receptions over his first two years in New York as well. His most notable box score contribution came in a November 2019 visit to Washington, when Brown opened scoring in a 34-17 Jets win with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Sam Darnold. It was his first NFL touchdown in nearly three full calendar years.

Last season, Brown was part of the Jets’ final roster cuts but was brought back to the active roster shortly after. He earned a pair of receptions, one each in the final two games of the season, for 31 yards.

Back in the New York fold, Brown will reunite with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, a rare holdover from Adam Gase’s staff, as well as a tight end room that also welcomes back Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, and Trevon Wesco. The Jets also signed former Buffalo Bill Tyler Kroft earlier this offseason.

With the signing of Brown, the Jets still have several free agents from the 2020 roster that remain up for grabs. Among the notables still available are secondary defenders Brian Poole and Bradley McDougald, as well as linebacker Neville Hewitt.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

Four areas the New York Jets must still address in April

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

The New York Jets undoubtedly improved this offseason, but there are several areas of need to address as the calendar flips to April.

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team this offseason. Whether that’s a result of the Adam Gase era giving them nowhere to go but up or it leads to actual results on the field remains to be seen, but the Jets have laid down a solid foundation for the Robert Saleh era. Optimism reigns for an already star-crossed franchise coming off a two-win season through the signings of names like Tevin Coleman, Corey Davis, and Carl Lawson.

“There’s a lot of optimism, especially coming off a bad season, so I’m looking forward to working. I love the process,” Lawson said in video provided by the Jets. He compared the situation to franchise mode on the Madden NFL video game franchise. “I play Madden because I love building teams. I love franchise mode. Franchise mode hasn’t changed on Madden in like 15 years, but I’m never going to stop loving it because I get to build, I get to grow, I get to improve.”

Yet, as the calendar flips to April and the free agency frenzy mostly pacified, the Jets have several areas of need that have yet to be satisfied. Competing in the crowded AFC will probably be difficult with even the perfect offseason, but the Saleh era can get off to an optimally smooth start if the following areas are satisfied, preferably sooner rather than later…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Offensive Line

Solving the offensive line issues was probably at the top of the Jets’ offseason to-do list, the necessity even outweighing the quarterback quandary. No matter who’s throwing the ball, he’s going to need protection.

Joe Douglas has shown he’s willing to make up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. His drafting of Mekhi Becton was a strong start, but his free agency signings failed to pan out. Several are set to return for another season, but the Jets missed out on the big targets (Joe Thuney, Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler), adding only interior man Dan Feeney from the Los Angeles Chargers. Another addition, tight end Tyler Kroft, has gained positive reviews for his blocking, but nothing that should dramatically change the Jets’ protection affairs.

An interesting gambit for the Jets would be to draft top blocking prospect Penei Sewell with the second overall choice and letting Sam Darnold work behind a revamped line, but the Jets’ due diligence at incoming rookie passing class hints that they’re headed toward that direction. But at least one of their early picks, namely the 23rd and 34th overall selections, should be used on a blocker if only to raise the heat on some of the incumbents. Veteran help from abroad, like Kansas City’s Austin Reiter, should also be considered. Reiter, set to turn 30 in November, was the Chiefs’ starting center in each of the last two Super Bowls.

New York Jets, Bless Austin
New York Jets, Bless Austin

Cornerback

After the spending frenzy in March, the Jets appear to have a plan in place when it comes to their safeties. Marcus Maye was granted the franchise tag, which basically serves as a $10 million “prove it” deal. On the strong side, the post-Jamal Adams era continues. Ashtyn Davis will get a de facto second rookie season after injuries marred his original and the Jets have brought in a strong mentor and veteran prescience in LaMarcus Joyner to help out. Elsewhere on defense, front seven newcomers Lawson and Jarrad Davis have experiences in the 4-3 scheme that Robert Saleh is reportedly hoping to implement.

But the cornerback depth is definitely concerning. Youngsters Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have shown flashes of brilliance in their infantile NFL careers, but they’ll probably need further development before fully embracing the starting roles. Newly signed Justin Hardee is listed as a corner but primarily works on special teams. The Jets also have a decision to make on one of their free agents, Brian Poole.

The 23rd pick, obtained from Seattle for Adams, can potentially be used on the top cornerbacks on the draft, namely Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain, or Jaycee Horn.

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, James Morgan

Backup Quarterback

The Jets have not had a quarterback start every game in a season since Ryan Fitzpatrick went all 16 in 2015. If Darnold stays, the Jets should be ready for the unthinkable again, as he has yet to play a full NFL season. Should the rookie arrive, some see Darnold as a safety blanket. But if Zach Wilson or Justin Fields make their entrance, Darnold still shouldn’t stay. There doesn’t need to be a quarterback controversy and the USC alum isn’t at the “veteran mentor” stage.

When Darnold got hurt last season, the Philadelphia-bound Joe Flacco did a serviceable job in relief. But with the Super Bowl XLVII MVP donning a new shade of green, they need to be prepared in case of an emergency. The draft can’t be an option, as the Jets have far too many needs to fill with their surplus and the fourth-round choice of James Morgan in last year’s proceedings remains puzzling. If they want a safety net that can win games, Saleh and Mike LaFleur’s Bay Area comrade Nick Mullens could be an option, while veteran mentors are available through Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer, or Blake Bortles.

Oct 1, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) celebrates his field goal with teammates during the first half against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Since Pro Bowler Jason Myers absconded to Seattle, the Jets have gone through six different kickers over the last two seasons. When you’re a team like the Jets, a team that struggles to get into the end zone, you need a reliable kicker to ensure visits to opposing territory end with at least some points. There appears to be a competition in place between two of those names (Sam Ficken and Chase McLaughlin), but the Jets need reliability and would be smart to showcase new talent.

The Jets haven’t used a draft pick on a kicker since Mike Nugent in the second round of the 2005 selections. There’s certainly no need to go that early this time around, but the selection of punter Braden Mann with their final pick last year shows the Jets won’t hesitate to address their special teams on draft weekend. Evan McPherson (Florida) and Jorge Borregales (Miami) are the top boots this time around.

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

New York Jets: 3 fun facts about new coach Leon Washington

Leon Washington is returning to the New York Jets in a coaching role. ESM has three fun facts about the special teams hero.

A special teams hero is coming home to New York.

The New York Jets are welcoming back former running back Leon Washington to serve as an assistant to special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. Washington, 38, entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2006. The Florida State alum would go on to become a threat on both offense and special teams over four New York seasons, later spending time with Seattle, New England, and Tennessee.

With Washington looking to make an impact in his New York return, ESM has three fun facts about the newly minted coach…

He holds Jets (and NFL) records

With his NFL career beginning in 2006, Washington may well have been one of the first NFL stars to go “viral” during his time with the Jets. He left a particularly large mark on Jets history during an otherwise dreary 2007 season, a year where he not only scored three touchdowns via kick return (one of five in franchise history to take back at least two and the only one with three) but the 2,337 all-purpose yards he gained (including 353 on the ground) are a team record. For his efforts, Washington was named the Team MVP.

“It was a tremendous honor,” Washington said of the honor, per Eric Allen of NewYorkJets.com. “Obviously, one of the greatest compliments you can have is from your teammates because they’re in the thick of things with you, they grind with you, they work hard in practice with you, they fight in the games with you. A lot of times you might not get credit from people on the outside, but at least your teammates can see what’s going on.”

The eight scores from kickoffs Washington earned in his career, half of which came in green, are tied for the most in NFL history alongside Josh Cribbs and the active Cordarrelle Patterson. Washington is also one of only ten players to take back two kicks for touchdowns, doing so in a 2010 win over San Diego while with the Seahawks.

His first card caused controversy

Through no fault of his own, Washington was causing controversy before his career ever really began. His first rookie card, released by The Topps Company, was said to have featured Washington flashing double middle fingers. But the returner, whose gloved hands somewhat blended in his dark jersey, insisted that his hands were instead forming “E’s”…representing the east side of Jacksonville where he grew up.

“All it is is that I’m from the east side of Jacksonville, that’s my community,” Washington told the Associated Press at the time. “It looks funny, but maybe I should’ve taken the picture a different way. That’s all it really is, nothing more than that.”

While Washington quickly defused the controversy, the item became a valuable novelty amongst collectors. Despite Topps’ attempts to reel the card in, the AP reported that it drew in $100 bids on eBay.

His “retirement” has been anything but

Washington last played in 2014 but has remained active on the field through the Leon Washington Foundation, which has provided help and support to low-income families in his native Jacksonville area. More recently, Washington served as an assistant with the Detroit Lions on offense and special teams, earning the position through the William Clay Ford Minority Coaching Assistantship. This followed up coaching internships in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Washington also served as a training prescience in the weight room.

“Working in the weight room getting them prepared physically,” Washington said in Allen’s report. “With the returners, just sharing my knowledge of the game. Teaching them how to read punters, teaching them how to read kickers when they’re kicking the ball off. And with running backs, teaching them pass protection and how to run routes when they’re coming out of the backfield. Whatever the offensive coordinator or the special teams coordinator may need, I’m there to help.”

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

New York Jets: Braden Mann speaks about fateful tackle

New York Jets

The New York Jets punter has received some flack from fans after a crucial tackle helped them earn an unappreciated victory.

If anyone on the New York Jets has earned his paycheck this season, it has probably been punter Braden Mann.

The New York rookie, chosen out of Texas A&M in the sixth round of April’s draft, has been called upon to punt on 70 occasions, most in the NFL. He has had a solid showing, averaging just over 45 yards a boot and seeing 13 of his kicks land inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line. Mann has also been willing to sacrifice his body to save a touchdown, earning four tackles this season. That tally is good for best amongst NFL punters this season with Riley Dixon and Mitchell Wishnowsky.

But none of those takedowns might’ve been as impactful as the one Mann had last Sunday in Los Angeles.

Mann wasn’t as busy as he normally has been this season, called upon only five times in the battle against the Rams. His services were required in the latter stages of the second half, with the Jets clinging on to a lead that evaporated from three possessions to one, the margin sitting at 23-20 with under six minutes to go.

Mann’s 50-yard kick landed in the arms of Rams returner Nsimba Webster, who broke through the Jets’ coverage squad and made it past midfield before Mann took him down at the New York 43. The tackle proved fateful, as the Jets’ defense forced Los Angeles into a turnover on downs, allowing the offense to run out the clock and pick up their first victory of this cursed season.

But many Jets fans weren’t appreciative of Mann’s efforts. The Jets (1-13) may have won the game, but some see them as losing the metaphorical war…the endeavor for Trevor Lawrence, to be precise. Both the Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars are assured of choosing either first or second come April’s selections. But, with a weaker strength of schedule, the Jaguars have the inside track at the top pick, one that many foresee being used on the champion thrower from Clemson.

Mann admitted that some Jets fans had sent him toxic messages on social media. But, with the help of his energized teammates, he’s more than happy to get over it.

“I got a few (bad) messages like that,” the former Ray Guy Award winner told Rich Cimini of ESPN. “But whoever says something like that, I don’t think they ever tried to compete at something like this. For us, we get paid to play. We get paid to win.”

Mann’s defensive heroics set off a strong celebration amongst the Jets, whose antics rivaled a championship celebration, per head coach Adam Gase. They were particularly enthused by Mann’s big hit, jumping up and down and surrounding the temporary defender prior to making their final defensive stand.

“We joke with the defensive guys that if we need to learn how to tackle, we’ll just bring him over to the (special teams) side,” Gase said in Cimini’s report. “If we have a couple missed tackles, we give them some crap about it.”

“The kid is getting better and better every week,” special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said of Mann, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “His locations/hang times and ability to control returners get better and better every week. The sky is the limit for him. He is a worker, a great kid and a pleasure to coach. I would have him on my team any day of the week.”

The Jets will play their final home game of the 2020 season on Sunday, battling the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets address special teams struggles through another kicker

New York Jets

After Sergio Castillo missed three-of-four attempts on Sunday in Seattle, the New York Jets will make another change at kicker.

The New York Jets have made yet another change at kicker, announcing the release of Sergio Castillo and the signing of Chase McLaughlin earlier this week.

McLaughlin, 24, joins his seventh NFL team since entering the league as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois in 2019. He has converted 22-of-28 field goals in his career, including 4-of-5 during a three-game stint with Jacksonville earlier this season, subbing for an injured Josh Lambo, a tenure that also saw him spend some brief time on the reserve/COVID-19 list. McLaughlin did manage to boot his career long with the Jaguars, during a November loss to Green Bay.

Better known for his endeavors in the CFL and XFL, Castillo converted 8-of-13 field goal attempts during his time in New York. His green tenure came to an unceremonious end on Sunday in Seattle, as he missed three attempts in a 40-3 loss to the Seahawks.

McLaughlin will become the third kicker the Jets (0-13) have used this season, the substitutes stemming from Sam Ficken’s groin injury earlier this fall. According to notes from the Jets head coach Adam Gase said that “there is definitely” a chance Ficken could return to the practice field as the Jets prepare to return out west to battle the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). Ficken converted each of his first eight attempts this season, but missed two kicks when he attempted to come back early from the injury in a prior visit to Los Angeles in November, a 34-28 loss to the Chargers.

The Jets have struggled at kicker since Pro Bowler Jason Myers departed for Seattle during the 2019 offseason. Should he partake in Sunday’s trek to Los Angeles. McLaughlin will become the fourth kicker to partake in a regular season game for the Jets over the past two seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Former K Stephen Hauschka announces retirement

Hauschka spent three seasons as the Buffalo Bills’ reliable kicker. He announced his retirement through an Instagram post on Friday.

Veteran NFL kicker Stephen Hauschka announced his retirement on Friday afternoon through an Instagram post. Hauschka, 35, partook in 13 NFL seasons, spending his final three full campaigns with the Buffalo Bills.

The photographic post includes several photos immortalizing his football career, including cherished memories in the northeast. Several photos from his three-year stint in Western New York appear, as do snapshots from Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.

“I started kicking a soccer ball at 3, switched to footballs at 19 and now at 35 I’m making the decision to hang up the cleats,” Hauschka’s accompanying caption read. “It’s been an amazing journey playing professional football the last 12+ years and when I reflect I feel grateful for all of it, the highs and the lows. It’s shaped me and my family and made us stronger and more resilient, more loving and understanding. Thank you to my family for always supporting my love of kicking.”

The former Division III kicker from Middlebury College chose to spend time as a graduate student at North Carolina State before joining the NFL in 2008. After spending time as a camp leg in Minnesota, Hauschka was chosen to succeed original Baltimore kicker Matt Stover with the Ravens, a job he held for two seasons. He would later spend brief stints with Atlanta, Detroit, Denver, and Las Vegas (with the Locomotives, their short-lived United Football League squad) during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Hauschka will likely be best known for his time spent with Seattle (2011-16) and Buffalo (2017-19). His best campaign in Seattle came in 2013, when he converted 33-of-35 field goal tries and all 44 of his extra point attempts. The former soccer player was also perfect on eight triple attempts in the postseason, the last two coming in the Seahawks’ 43-8 win over Denver in East Rutherford’s Super Bowl. Hauschka would depart Seattle as the second-leading scorer in team history, behind only fellow kicker Norm Johnson.

Buffalo signed Hauschka to a three-year deal in 2017. His propensity for line-drive kicks was seen as an advantage in the chilly atmosphere in Orchard Park. Hauschka lived up to the hype, as he would earn a reputation for kicking it from deep. He would make NFL history in a Bills uniform by converting a record 13 straight attempts from at least 50 yards out over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The Bills reached the playoffs in two of the three seasons Hauschka spent as their kicker. His most famous Buffalo boot was likely his last, as a 47-yard tally in the dying stages of regulation sent their 2020 Wild Card game appearance against Houston into overtime. Overall, Hauschka went 73-of-89 (82 percent) in his time with the Bills. Despite playing only three seasons, he ranks ninth in team history in terms of points (303).

The Bills released Hauschka in August, four months after they took Tyler Bass in the NFL Draft. His final NFL contest came in October through a one-game cameo with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Hauschka gave a special thank you to Bills fans in his farewell caption.

“To the fans, the 12s and bills mafia [sic], two of the best, I always felt your unwavering passion for your team and city,” Hauschka said, referring to the respective fanbases of Seattle and Buffalo. “The energy and excitement you brought to game day was what made football fun and exciting. The tension, the drama, knowing everyone was watching and that the kick was important.”

Several of Hauschka’s former teammates arrived in the comments to support him, including Buffalo comrades Josh Allen, Dion Dawkins, Micah Hyde, and Reid Ferguson.

The modern Bills (8-3) return to action on Monday night in Glendale, Arizona against the San Francisco 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags