Seeking the Keys to Rise to Special Heights

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On the Roster in 2015 (Including Top Tacklers)

Tommy Bohanon, Randy Bullock (K), Nick Folk (K-IR), Erin Henderson, Jamari Lattimore, Rontez Miles, Tanner Purdum (LS), Trevor Reilly, Ryan Quigley (P), Darrin Walls

Potential Free Agents

Randy Bullock, Jamari Lattimore, Erin Henderson, Ryan Quigley, Darrin Walls

Overview

It wasn't a special year for the specialists, and some of the Jets' NFL rankings tell the story: 26th in kickoff-return average, 28th in gross punting average, 31st in net punting, 30th in opponents' gross punting, 29th in opponents' net, and no blocked kicks of any kind by any Jet since Week 15 of the 2013 season, the fewest in the league in that span. After the season, head coach Todd Bowles said ST coordinator Bobby April and assistant ST coach Steve Hagen won't return, so refurbishing the special teams will be a Bowles priority in 2016.

Looking Back

Nick Folk's quadriceps injury suffered before the Jacksonville game could have been disastrous, but GM Mike Maccagnan brought in Randy Bullock, whom he was familiar with when they both worked for the Texans. Folk was 13-for-16 on his field goals, Bullock was 14-for-17 with the decisive late field goals at the Giants and Cowboys. Bullock did miss an extra point, something Folk has never done in his career. But while Folk had 21 touchbacks in Games 9-16 in the previous four seasons combined, Bullock had 20 touchbacks in his eight games as a Jet.

P Ryan Quigley fell off of his franchise-record averages of last year — from 45.9 to 43.8 in gross punting average and from 39.9 to 36.5 in net average. Playing the Bills showed "Q" at his two extremes. At home on Thursday night he averaged a season-high 51.6 yards on five punts with his long for the season of 68 yards. In the season finale at Buffalo, he had his shortest kick of 21 yards that set up the Bills' second TD.

We won't say every snap Tanner Purdum makes to Quigley is perfect. It just seems that way. In his sixth season with the Green & White, he increased his total to 939 long snaps (525 punts, 414 placements) without an errant or muffed snap. He also has never been called for a penalty.

On returns, Jeremy Kerley had a career-high 48 returns, on which he averaged 8.6 yards/return, improving on last year's 8.0. He had a 58-yard return against Miami, his longest in three years. And he cut his fair catches from 41 to 19. Kickoffs were more pedestrian as injuries and a suspension prevented the Jets from getting any traction with one returner until Antonio Cromartie dropped back for the last 21 kickoffs, beginning with the Giants. Cro had a 25.1-yard average on 15 returns, not enough to qualify for the league's leaders.

Trevor Reilly (15 tackles), Erin Henderson (12) and Rontez Miles (12) led the Jets' tackle chart and all had some impactful hits. But in general Bowles is looking for surer punt coverage after giving up punt-return TDs to Darren Sproles of Philadelphia and the Giants' Dwayne Harris. The kickoff coverage, on the other hand, was sharp in allowing an average drive start of the 20.9-yard line, seventh in the NFL, and covering 20 inside-the-20 kickoffs, second in the league.

Looking Ahead

Bowles was asked if he was disappointed with his specialists this year. "At times," he replied. "The returns, yes. We have to make tackles here and there. Sometimes we have to make plays. We didn't make enough plays sometimes with the defense, sometimes with the offense, sometimes with the special teams." Job one will be hiring his new ST coordinator. Job two will be turning him loose on designing the plays and identifying the playmakers to help the Green & White rise to special heights in '16.

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