As the holidays approach, we could start referring to Braxton Berrios as "The Returns Department." He's taking opponents' gifts of kicks and coverage and turning them into long runbacks for the Jets special teams.
Berrios is arguably the NFL's top dual-threat returner this season. His rousing 79-yard return of the opening kickoff against the Eagles not only set up the Jets for a short opening-drive touchdown but also vaulted him to the top of the league's kickoff returners in his duel with the Ravens' Devin Duvernay.
"Yeah, they did an incredible job up front and it really did, it parted, it split right down the middle," Berrios said, deflecting kudos for himself into praise for his blockers. "I could've driven a truck through there last week."
The KO return was not only the longest of Berrios' career but the longest by a Jet since Andre Roberts reeled off 99- and 86-yarders, both in December 2018.
And it propelled Berrios to a 28.9 yards/return average, first in the league and ahead of Duvernay, in second at 25.5. If BB were to hold that average for the rest of the season, he'd finish fourth in franchise history.
Berrios' punt returns, on the other hand, require an asterisk. He has a 13.6-yard average, which would be second in the NFL behind Duvernay's 14.4. However, Braxton doesn't have enough punts to qualify for the league leaders and likely won't have enough by the end of the regular season.
The league requires returners to have 1.25 returns/games played by their teams. With the Jets at 12 games, Berrios would need 15 returns, not including fair catches, to qualify. He has nine returns (and 19 FCs). And he would need 22 returns through 17 games to make the final list. It's doable, but not at the rate at which he and the Jets recently have fair-caught kicks.
For team return leaders, though, there is no minimum. ST coordinator Brant Boyer's return teams, with Berrios as the point man, are second in the league in punt-return average and third in kickoff-return average.
And Berrios' individual PR average will check in high on the franchise's all-time single-season list. If he maintains his 13.6 for the year, that would be the sixth-best mark. Here are the Jets' top five single-season kickoff return and punt return averages, plus Berrios' numbers this season:
|KO Returner||Year||Avg||Punt Returner||Year||Avg|
|Joe McKnight||2011||31.6||Dick Christy||1961||21.3|
|Andre Roberts||2018||29.4||Santana Moss||2002||16.5|
|Braxton Berrios||2021*||28.9||Terance Mathis||1990||15.0|
|Leon Burton||1960||28.7||Andre Roberts||2018||14.1|
|Brad Smith||2010||28.6||Braxton Berrios||2021*||13.6|
Berrios was asked this week if he had a preference for KOs or punts. "I've grown to like kick returns a lot," he said, "but I think punt returns I'll always have an infatuation for. There isn't anything like it."