Skip to main content

Notebook | Jets ST Coordinator Brant Boyer Vows to Clean Up Punt Coverage

It’s Special: Gunner Justin Hardee and Punter Thomas Morstead Reunited


It's not his prowess and passion as a devoted fly-fisherman that has kept Brant Boyer wading into his job season after season as the Jets special teams coordinator. He is now preparing for his eighth go-round. And unlike the team's other position coaches, Boyer rarely has the same cast of characters from year to year.

One of the constants this season (and for the last two seasons) is gunner Justin Hardee. Boyer and the Jets have also been reunited with punter Thomas Morstead. Beyond those guys in the punt game, Boyer is charged with cobbling together a unit composed of mostly reserves and rookies. What keeps him up at night -- still -- are the two punt returns for touchdowns allowed last season.

"Those two punt returns [late at New England in Week 11 and vs. Detroit in Week 15; both losses] make me sick to my stomach," Boyer told team reporter Eric Allen. "Just little technical errors that could have been coached better. It's a matter of standing in the lanes. I have to coach that better this year and try to identify the issues and how to teach it better. It all starts and ends with me. I've got to get it fixed."

Boyer, who was the only coach retained when Robert Saleh was named head coach in January 2021, has obviously beaten himself up over those two plays. Not to be overlooked in the overall play of his special teams were a list of positives: A fake punt that resulted in a first down and then a recovered onside kick in a wild rally at Cleveland; a blocked punt (for a score) and a blocked field goal at Green Bay; and a blocked punt at Buffalo.

"It's not even close," Boyer said. "That stuff is so far gone from my mind. It's always a long season and you do some things well. The year before we were bad in penalties and we made it a focus and were much better last year. You get change by making it a specific focus, and punt coverage is one of those this year. I felt we hurt the team. I'm not proud of that."

Hardee and Morstead, a Special Reunion
The Jets know they have a gem on their special teams in Justin Hardee, who is preparing for his third season with the Green & White after being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time after another strong season as one of the best gunners in the game.

Last season Hardee had a career-high 14 tackles on special teams and helped to cement his place in Jets special teams lore when he improbably recovered an onside kick late in the team's stirring comeback at Cleveland in a Week 2 victory. That was then.

Now, with time off between OTAs and the start of training camp in mid-July, Hardee has set new goals for the coming season in which he will also be reunited with a former teammate in New Orleans (and from 2021 with the Jets for seven games) in punter Thomas Morstead.

"I'd like to repeat that [the Pro Bowl] and to become an AP First-Team All Pro and lead the league in special teams tackles and lead in forced fumbles," he said. "Those are personal goals of mine. The team goal is I want to win it all."

Hardee entered the NFL in 2017 as an undrafted free agent signed by Houston ... as a wide receiver. He bounced to New Orleans where he was moved to cornerback and later in his rookie season blocked a punt, which he returned for a TD. He was named the NFL Special Teams Player of the Week.

"Any young man who comes into this league and is trying to find their path, look no further than him," Saleh said late last season, speaking about Hardee. "The way he approaches every day – an undrafted guy. He came in as a receiver, moves to corner, finds his way on special teams. He is the one you cheer for because he does it the right way."

Hardee said that he tries to pass along that philosophy of opportunity to his young teammates.

"I let the young guys know what to be prepared for," Hardee said. "For starters, there are already the starters out there. To make this team you have to be able to contribute in the kicking game."

Morstead, who is entering his 13th season in the league, returns to the Jets after a season with the Dolphins, and Hardee could not be happier.

"He FaceTimed me one day at random and was like 'Man, I'm back,' " Hardee said. "He helped me get here, get paid. I got his back and he's got mine. He puts the ball where it's supposed to be. He kicks to a spot and it's up to me to get there.

"I'm betting on myself against anybody, and I'm betting with him against anybody."

See the top images of the Jets during the 2023 offseason program.

Wilson and Gardner Impress Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers reserved some special praise during the recent OTAs for WR Garrett Wilson (and also Sauce Gardner), last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year who set club rookie records with 1,103 receiving yards from 83 catches with 4 touchdowns.

"I love Garrett, he's an awesome young kid with the whole world in front of him," Rodgers said. "He's got all the talent and ability. You need your best players to be your best people and he's definitely one of them. At least one time in practice I've looked back at the coaches and just gone 'Wow.'

"I like to encourage more communication across the ball, at some point possibly the best corner [Gardner, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year] and best receiver in the NFL. It's a legit possibility, but not yet."

Related Content