Jets Roster Reset: Wide-Open Race at Returner

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Specialists (3)
K Chandler Catanzaro, P Lachlan Edwards, LS Thomas Hennessy

Spring Synopsis
The band is indeed back together again. When Pro Bowler Jason Myers signed a multi-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, the Jets pivoted and went to a familiar foot in Chandler Catanzaro.

In 2017, Catanzaro connected on 83.3% of his kicks for the Green & White including a franchise-long 57-yarder at Cleveland. He also produced 45 touchbacks and recorded a 66.2% TB rate. But Catanzaro couldn’t duplicate his success last year in Tampa, going 11-of-15 on his field goal attempts and also missing four extra points before getting released in November. He did rebound late, nailing all five of his FGA down the stretch while appearing in four games with the Carolina Panthers.

Although solid last season, Edwards believes he can be better. He improved both his gross and net NFL rankings for the second straight year in addition to setting the franchise’s net record for the second consecutive season.

Hennessy, a Don Bosco Prep product, just gets the job done at long-snapper. He is one of the best at his position in the league and that means you won’t hear his name often.

Biggest Question
Can “Cat Man” fill the boot of Money Myers? The latter had a remarkable season before flying back to the Seahawks, nailing 33 of 36 field-goal attempts, including 6 of 7 from 50-plus yards, plus an NFL record five makes of 55-plus yards.

“They felt great about him because they’ve worked with him before, they know him. They know kind of how they’re going to work with the long-snapper and the punter,” sad head coach Adam Gase of Catanzaro. “They have a good system to where they feel good about him.”

All teams like to have competition throughout the roster and you don’t want to overuse kickers in the summer, so the Jets could bring in another body or two for training camp.

Returners (8)
Trenton Cannon, Jamison Crowder, Ty Montgomery, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Eli McGuire, Greg Dortch (R), Valentine Holmes (R)

Spring Synopsis
Let the battle begin.

Andre Roberts led the NFL in punt return average (14.1) and was second in the league in kick return average (29.4), contributing a kick return and punt return score last season. Roberts totaled 10 returns of 40+ yards and the 31-year-old appeared in his first Pro Bowl. Roberts — like Myers — departed in free agency and the prolific returner could face the Green & White twice next season as a Buffalo Bill.

But special teams coordinator Brant Boyer and his top assistant, Jeff Hammerschmidt (Hammer), are back and they had things cooking in 2018. They can scheme it up as well as anyone in the league and they will head back to the lab this spring.

Biggest Question(s)
After relying on Roberts in both roles, will the Jets use different players at the return spots? And who is ready to step to the forefront and take advantage of the opportunity? Cannon figures to get his shot at kick returner for a second consecutive season. He is a burner who made his hay as a gunner as a rookie. Crowder was Washington’s primary PR in 2015-17, averaging 7.9 yards on 86 returns. Veteran newcomer Ty Montgomery has averaged 22.7 yards on his 35 career kick returns. McGuire, Henderson, a waiver claim from the Giants who was an outstanding college returner at Pittsburgh, and Jones, a sub 4.4 wideout who was a successful returner at West Georgia and was on the Chargers’ opening-day roster in 2018, will likely get run at both spots. And the Jets had to be pleasantly surprised to land Dortch as an undrafted free agent. The 5’9”, 170-pound Dortch didn’t see much return duty in 2018, but he averaged 22.1 yards and 8.1 yards on kick returns and punt returns, respectively, in 2017.

“The NFL is looking for guys that can play multiple positions. I’m a punt returner, kick returner and wide receiver,” Dortch said after his pro day. “I’m an explosive playmaker when I get the ball in my hands. I’m exciting to watch, so teams are looking for that.”

The lights won’t come on for a while, so don’t expect any of the answers soon. But Boyer, who will use the spring to get reacclimated with his kicker and start the returners out of the gate, has a number of vets in house like Cannon, Neville Hewitt, Charone Peake, Doug Middleton, Rontez Miles, Brandon Copeland and Eric Tomlinson who helped his unit become arguably become the best in football last year. Newcomers Josh Bellamy and Daniel Brown have been solid teams guys throughout their careers and rookies Trevon Wesco and Blake Cashman will get their chances to prove their worth as well.

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