Rontez Miles' vision for his 2017 season wasn't clear approaching the opener at Buffalo. But leading up to and including the finale at New England, it was plain to see he was back to his normal impactful special teams self.
"It was another day at the park, man," Miles, the Jets' veteran safety, said after the loss to the Patriots as he was preparing to head back to his Pittsburgh home. "I don't know what was different. I remember I missed the first three games. So I saw that I was tied for third in the NFL in teams tackles and if I hadn't missed those three games, I could've been No. 1.
"I'm not saying numbers matter, because I'm always going to try to be the best player at what I'm doing. But that was big for me to have four tackles in the game."
Miles missed the first three games with the serious eye socket fractures he suffered in the second preseason game at Detroit. It took him until Game 4 against Jacksonville to return to action.
Besides those four kick-coverage tackles vs. the Patriots, Miles added five tackles on defense. The game gave "Tez" several distinctions to take with him into the offseason:
■ He was the first Jet with four ST tackles in a game since the trio of Marcus Williams, Trevor Reilly and Erin Henderson each had a four-tackle game in 2015. The last Jet with five was James Ihedigbo in the January 2010 playoff game at San Diego.
■ He was the first NFL player in three seasons to notch at least four ST tackles plus at least one defensive tackle in a game.
■ Miles secured the Jets' ST tackles leadership for the first time. He finished with 26 tackles by coach Brant Boyer's video breakdown, pulling away from Julian Stanford (19) and Josh Martin (17) in the last game.
■ Pressbox tackle stats, which never agree with coaches' breakdowns, had Miles at 16 ST tackles, tied for third in the league behind two Chargers, Nick Dzubnar (21) and Austin Ekeler (17).
Best Snapshots from the Season
As Miles said, statistical pursuits weren't the only thing driving him to rehab his eye and return to form for his third full season (in his fifth year with the Jets).
"I wanted to shut the critics up — we all did," he said. "We were in the midst of everything and playing as well as we did. We all wanted it to be a better outcome. But we show so much potential in this group. And with them extending the coach and the GM, man, it's promising."
And Miles hopes he'll be contributing to the ongoing building process.
"I would like to be back. I just take care of what I can take care of. I do the playing and let upstairs and my agent do everything else, so hopefully that goes well," he said. "But just me getting comfortable in my role on special teams was big. I've played the wing but I always wanted to be the PP [personal protector on the punt cover team, which he was from Game 4 on].
"I feel like I'm growing and I'm very excited to see what's next."