Return specialist Darius Reynaud has been on the Green & White roster for just over 24 hours, but he's no stranger to many of his Jets teammates.
Reynaud went to Hahnville High School in Boutte, LA, with S Dawan Landry, he attended West Virginia with CB Ellis Lankster, he left for the NFL two years before QB Geno Smith arrived as a WVU freshman, and he and S Ed Reed knew each other as well since both grew up in Louisiana.
In fact, immediately after his agent told him that the Jets wanted to bring him in for a workout, Reynaud called Landry. And just a few moments before editor-in-chief Randy Lange and I caught up with him in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room today, he said, "I was just messing with Ellis in the weight room."
"In college," Lankster said, "he was the starting punt returner and I was the second-string punt returner until my senior year, so I always looked up to him. It's good to play with him because he's a football player. In West Virginia he was a football player, for the Titans, in Minnesota, wherever he was, he was a good football player. So me personally, I feel very good to be playing with him again."
But the honeymoon period won't last long with a must-win game coming up on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
So what can we expect from the newest member to our 53-man roster, and why did no other team take a chance on him once he was cut by the Titans on Oct. 21?
"Your guess is as good as mine," Reynaud said. "When I got released, it was a shocker to me because I was doing pretty good with the Titans. I'm just grateful for this opportunity."
Perhaps the Jets would have picked him up earlier, but the timing didn't work out. We had signed Josh Cribbs to fill a similar role just six days before Reynaud became available. Cribbs' torn pectoral muscle from Sunday's game vs. the Dolphins landed him on Injured Reserve, though, and left us with a void at the return spots.
Reynaud will likely jump to the top of our depth chart at kick returner and possibly at punt returner, too, depending on WR Jeremy Kerley's health among other factors. He averaged 7.5 yards on 18 punt returns (including a long of 35 vs. the Jets in Week 4, only to be brought down by Lankster) and 23.7 yards on 15 kickoff returns.
"The main thing is securing the catch," Reynaud said of his personal return style. "Make sure those guys are blocked, when I see the ball in the air make sure I'm focusing on the ball. I just want to bring a lot of excitement to the return game when I have a chance to return the ball."
Darius Reynaud will be our fifth kick returner and fourth punt returner this season, excluding four players who received squib kicks. With guys like Josh Cribbs, Kerley, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie and Clyde Gates in the mix throughout this year, we rank 19th in the NFL with a 22.7-yard kickoff-return average and 13th with a 9.4-yard punt-return average.
The 5'9", 201-pounder is listed as a running back and wearing No. 24 for the Jets, although he had just a pair of offensive touches – one rush and one reception – in seven games with Tennessee this season.
It remains to be seen if he will play any offensive snaps for the Green & White. At the moment, learning the playbook – mainly protecting the quarterback – is priority No. 1 "so they can have confidence in putting me out there," Reynaud said.
Running back, receiver, kick returner, punt returner, wherever. Like the guy he's coming in to replace, Reynaud's happy to be a Swiss Army knife for this Jets team. "My strength," he said, "is I can do whatever they want me to do."