When WR Irvin Charles made the Jets' 53-man roster in August, Robert Saleh described him as "an absolute wolf" on special teams, something Charles wears as a badge of honor.
"It's just instinct to just go kill," Charles said. "I have to go hunt. I have to get that ball. Wherever the ball is, I'm around it and I have to go find them. If there's somebody in my way, don't be in my way.
"I'm from Jersey, this is what we do. Whoever's across from us, they're going to get it. That's been my mentality in anything I do. I'm a competitor, so if I feel like I'm getting challenged or if it's mano a mano, I'm going to win."
Charles (6-4, 219) didn't dress for the first four games of the season, but quickly separated from the pack in Week 5 at Denver. On his first snap in punt coverage, he shook free from the gunner within five yards of the line of scrimmage and was within one yard of Pro Bowl returner Marvin Mims when he muffed Thomas Morstead's 51-yard boot. Charles tackled Mims and LB Sam Eguavoen, who was 12 yards behind Charles when the ball was loose, caught up and recovered.
"I feel like I proved that I could play here, I could bang with these guys and I could compete with them," said Charles, whose six special teams tackles led the Jets gunners. "Coming out undrafted, the odds are kind of stacked against you. People always say there's this, that and the third, but coming out here and being able to put it on tape, not only for them, but for myself — to prove that I could do it and I could play with these guys more so than anything. That was just the biggest thing for me. I felt like I got to prove itself."
Charles, from Sicklerville, NJ, began his college career at Penn State and transferred to Indiana University of Pennsylvania after two seasons with the Nittany Lions. He signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent after one season at IUP (39 receptions, 792 yards, 12 TDs) and spent the majority of his 2022 rookie season on the Green & White's practice squad.
Most special teams stalwarts in the league are selected on Day 3 of the NFL Draft or go undrafted (the Pro Bowlers and All-Pro players this year are examples of that). Jets captain Justin Hardee went undrafted before finding his home on special teams and sees a similar path for Charles.
"I was working with Irv last year when he was a rookie and just to see some of that stuff coming to life, it's pretty dope," Hardee said. "I feel like I'm at a point in my career where I'm giving back all the knowledge that I have and giving it to the younger guys. For him to take a lot of that knowledge and take advantage, I'm proud of him."
Morstead, who witnessed firsthand Hardee's development with the Saints from UDFA to special teams ace, said about Charles' consistency: "I think he would tell you that it hasn't been what it needs to be. You see flashes of these amazing plays that he's capable of making. He's made some huge plays for us this year, but he's not even close to what his potential would allow him to be on a consistent basis. So if he can figure out how to do that, the world is his oyster."