New Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer talked philosophy in the offseason, mentioning both 500 MPH and 100 MPH as acceptable speeds for his units. They certainly raced out of the gates in the preseason opener tonight at MetLife Stadium during the Jets' 17-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"That was the fastest I think we ever came out and started on special teams," said S Rontez Miles.
Late in the opening half, rookie Jalin Marshall electrified the masses with an 84-yard kickoff return. Receiving the ball in his end zone, Marshall had a gaping hole as he cut to his right. With a defender to beat at the 22, the Ohio State product ran through an arm tackle, followed a blocker, beat the punter's diving attempt and eventually got angled out at the 18. The return set up Geno Smith's red zone scoring strike to rookie WR Charone Peake as the Jets took a lead they would never relinquish.
"Once I crossed the 50, I felt like I could take it the whole way," Marshall said. "I broke out and the guy had a pretty good angle on me. People say I look like I got tired, but I tried to set him up and do something else. I didn't score, but I had a good return."
Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Jeremy Ross took the Jets' first kickoff return of the summer back 51 yards. Taking the ball five yards deep in the end zone, Ross got daylight up the right side and wasn't brought down until he had reached the 46. After the Jags added a Chris Ivory score in the opening stanza, the Jaguars refused to let Ross get a second chance and kicked the ball out of their end zone.
"The return unit, we're the first thing that happens in a game. That's like a tempo setter in the game," said Ross, who also had three receptions for 51 yards. "It felt good to go out there and immediately make an impact."
"I think him doing that adds a little competition to the game with us fighting for that returning spot," added Marshall, who gained 10 yards on his one reception. "He goes and out and does that, it means I've got to go out there and go to the house. It's good competition, it's great."
The competition extended beyond the returners. Midway through the second stanza, rookie P Lachlan Edwards didn't get all of a 48-yard boot. But CB Marcus Williams hustled down the field and stopped returner Rashad Greene for a loss of a yard. Miles, dubbed an energizer bunny by Boyer, made the first tackle of the night on teams and later downed a 50-yard punt by Edwards in the final stanza. Edwards got a couple fortuitous bounces, averaging a 41.5-yard net with two punts inside the 20.
And while rookie Ross Martin missed a pair of field goals including a 54-yarder, Boyer's units played a critical role in the victory.
"We had good, simple schemes called," Bowles said of the returns. "The guys blocked. It's hard to tell with the return game because you don't get to do them live in practice, but there were some holes for them and those two guys made plays."