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Notebook | ST Coordinator Brant Boyer High on Jets' Three 'Specialists'

Judy Battista of Says Super Bowl Fits ‘Collective Mood’


For all the focus on the Jets' strong and emerging corps of young players, there is one group of indispensable entrenched veterans that often toils in the shadows -- until it isn't.

They are the triumvirate of specialists -- the placekicker, the punter and the long snapper -- on the special teams overseen by Brant Boyer.

It's kind of fitting that three men with a combined 26 years of experience in the NFL (through the 2022 season) work under the tutelage of Boyer, who is entering his eighth season (under his third head coach) as the Green & White's special teams coordinator.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to come back, as I am every year," Boyer told team reporter Eric Allen on "The Official Jets Podcast." "I'm lucky to be here as long as I have."

Boyer and the Jets' special teams went through an up-and-down season that began with the improbable Week 2 come-from-behind win at Cleveland (a fourth-down conversion on a fake punt and then a recovery on an onside kick that led to the game-winning TD). The superlatives carried over to rookie Micheal Clemons' block punt at Green Bay that was returned for a TD and another punt block by rookie Jermaine Johnson at Buffalo.

But the two plays that still keep Boyer up a night are the ones that all 32 special teams coaches in the league dread -- punt returns for scores -- one late at New England and one early vs. Detroit.

"Those two punt returns make me sick to my stomach," Boyer said. "They still infuriate me when I think about it, and I do think about them a lot. I'm not real happy with the way things went last year.

"It all starts and ends with me."

Of the three Jets "specialists" on special teams, long snapper Thomas Hennessy, 29, who was re-signed in the offseason, has had the longest tenure with the team -- 6 years. Through the 98 games of his NFL career, Hennessy (who played his high school football at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.) has snapped the ball on field-goal attempts and punts.

"It's awesome to see how much he's developed since we've been here," Boyer said. "He's taking a leadership role, I've seen his maturation process, more physical blocking. The guy comes to work every day, you never hear any complaining. You dream of coaching guys like him." He added: "Guys who don't have a snapper don't realize it until they don't have one."

Placekicker Greg Zuerlein, 35, a k a Legatron, also returns and Boyer firmly believes that his guy is capable of eclipsing the NFL record of 66 yards set on a game-winning kick by Justin Tucker at Detroit in 2021. Last season Zuerlein converted 30-of-37 field-goal attempts, including 6 of 11 from 50-plus yards and 9 of 11 from 40-49 yards.

"He regularly kicks between 60 and 63 yards [in warmups], with plenty left," Boyer said. "And he's gotten better. He made more kicks from 50 than anyone in the league last year and hit a couple of big field goals for us."

Thomas Morstead, 37, spent time with the Jets before punting for the Dolphins last season, where he dropped 28 of 61 punts inside the opposition's 20-yard line (with only 2 touchbacks) and had a net average of 40.9 yards a punt

"I think arguably he's been the best punter in this league as far as controlling returners, and he has been for a long time," Boyer said "He's so consistent and deliberate. I'm really happy to get him back. He brings leadership to the room, having been around [12 seasons] as long as he has.

"His longevity is based on how hard works in the weight room, and how hard he takes care of body. He's always training and watching his diet. Those are guys that last the longest. Others don't understand how short-term this business can be. The one thing that makes you money, that's your body."

For as long as he's been coaching special teams, Boyer has each season had to cobble together his return teams from among hungry young players and backup guys. With Zuerlein, Hennessy and Morstead in addition to an ace in Pro Bowler Justin Hardee, Boyer has a proven group at pivotal positions.

"To have a veteran group -- Z, Thomas and Henny -- that room is awesome to coach and to be around, "Boyer said. "Everyone gets along and they can bounce things around. They'll just sit there and tell me the truth. I have a great relationship with all of them."

Jets Fanbase Deserves a Trip to the Super Bowl:
The Super Bowl III trophy sits stoically in a case at the Atlantic Health Training Center, a lonely testament to a special, seminal day in league history when Joe Namath led the Jets to an upset victory over the Baltimore Colts 54 years ago. The silverware was one of the first things QB Aaron Rodgers noticed as he walked into the building for his introductory press conference in April.

"I grew up watching old VHS tapes of the Super Bowls and so, obviously, I know about 'The Guarantee' and Broadway Joe," Rodgers said. "It's been a while since then."

A half-dozen writers at recently picked the Jets among six teams whose fanbases most deserve a Super Bowl title. That group also includes the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It was tempting to pick a team that has never won a Super Bowl -- the Bengals or Lions were the ones I wrestled with," wrote reporter Judy Battista. "But the agony of Jets fans has permeated the NFL for so long that a Super Bowl for Gang Green under Aaron Rodgers might lift the collective mood even for people who didn't grow up hoping Richard Todd/Ken O'Brien/Boomer Esiason/Chad Pennington/Mark Sanchez/Sam Darnold/Zach Wilson would be the next Joe Namath."

Rodgers, a four-time league MVP who was obtained in a trade with the Green Bay Packers, is surrounded by talent, something he recognized last season when the Jets went to Lambeau Field and defeated the Packers, 27-10.

"Like I said last year after we played them, they're not the same old Jets," Rodgers said. "This is a team that has a legitimate opportunity to do something special this year."

See photos of the Jets' 90-man roster leading up to training camp.

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