Following a year in which the Jets special teams were arguably the best in football, the unit is under construction.
No longer with a pair of Pro Bowlers in kicker Jason Myers (Seattle) and returner Andre Roberts (Buffalo), special teams coordinator Brant Boyer is still looking to build on last season.
"One of the first meetings I had, the first thing I stressed was there are no steps back. I think we set the bar pretty high last year and I'm going to coach like it. I'm going to draw the best out of them" Boyer said. "That's my job no matter who we have, and I feel real confident with this group that we can go in and play anybody. We're good."
Even though the group lost some players at key positions, the top three tacklers in 2018 — Trenton Cannon (16), Neville Hewitt (12) and Charone Peake (11) — return in addition to a handful of core special teams players such as Rontez Miles, Brandon Copeland and Frankie Luvu. The Jets also added Josh Bellamy, who is known for his special teams prowess, and Dan Brown, who played all four phases with the Bears, in free agency.
"Every position is a challenge that you have to replace whether that is a core linebacker or whether it's a safety or whether it's a kicker," Boyer said. "Whatever it is, those challenges are always hard because you have a familiarity with those guys, you know exactly what they can do and what they can't do , and you figure out what they do best and you tried to tailor everything that you do around them."
Who's Returning the Rock?
The Green & White had a number of players— Quadree Henderson, Ty Montgomery, Eli McGuire, Trenton Cannon, Greg Dortch, J.J. Jones — taking reps at both punt and kick returner in the spring, but Boyer believes the real evaluation won't come until the preseason.
"You really can't tell what those guys are going to be until you get them into game action and see," he said. "You know it's always good to see them in shorts and run around and catching, but the real deal is when you get them in pads and see if they make people miss and things like that and see how they mesh with their teammates."
See the Best Photos of the Jets Specialists
Curious Case of the Cat Man
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro had a successful first stint with the Jets in 2017 as he converted on 83.3% of his field goals, one of which was a franchise-record 57-yard boot. The sixth-year veteran signed with the Bucs last offseason and was let go midseason before finishing the last five games with the Panthers. Back in green and white, Boyer is expecting similar results from Catanzaro his second time around.
"I think one of the biggest deals that people don't understand is just how important the snapper-holder combination is and the specialists all staying together," Boyer said. "If you can keep the same three specialists working together all the time, it is outstanding to be able to do that. It's obviously not always the case, but when you add a new snapper, a new holder all the time for a kicker, it makes it really tough. Chandler has been in those situations not only in Arizona, but in Tampa. In the spring, he's been fantastic and you have the band back together so to speak. I think they're all going to have a really good year."
Lachlan Edwards and Matt Darr, whom the Jets signed in May, will compete in training camp for the punting job. Edwards is coming off consecutive seasons in which he improved his NFL rankings in both his gross and net averages. He also set the franchise's net record in both 2017 (40.5) and '18 (40.8). Darr, who was with head coach Adam Gase in Miami from 2015-16, only played five games last season with the Bills and averaged 40.5 yards per punt and a 36.3 net.
"I think they both had really good springs," Boyer said. "Lachlan is kicking the ball as good as I have ever seen right now. Darr has come in and is kicking the ball really well. So, it's one of those deals where I think that's a situation that is going to play out again in the game just like any other position."