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Some Jets Specialists Kicked Up a Storm

Punter/Kicker/Snapper/Coverage Excelled for Brant Boyer; Return Games Have Further to Go


On the Active Roster in 2017 (GP/GS, Special Teams Snaps)
P Lachlan Edwards (16/0, 158), LS Thomas Hennessy (16/0, 150), K Chandler Catanzaro (16/0, 132).

Potential Free Agents in 2018
Chandler Catanzaro.

Specialists' Ups & DownsAt the start of his second season coordinating the Jets' special teams, Brant Boyer was optimistic about what 2017 would hold. "The guys going through the drills a second time, it's much easier to teach, it's much easier for guys to jump in there. They already know what to do and what is expected of them. I think it's going to be a lot easier, for sure."

In some areas it was, in others not as much.

Sophomore punter Lachlan Edwards and the coverage team were easily improved. Edwards set franchise season records for gross (46.6) and net (40.5) averages, his 33 inside-20 punts were second-most by a Jet, and he launched a 70-yard gross and net that was key in beating AFC finalist Jacksonville in Week 4. The team's ranking in gross punting average improved from 30th to 10th, in net from 31st to 18th, and opposing returners' average fell from 20th to 24th.

And K Chandler Catanzaro was as good as the older veteran he replaced. Catanzaro's 25-for-30 on field goals and 29-for-29 on extra points were comparable to Nick Folk's 27-for-31/24-for-26 in '16. "Catman's" overtime FG beat the Jags, his 57-yard field goal at Cleveland the next week topped Folk's franchise long by a yard, and he set the franchise marks for most touchbacks (45) and top TB rate (63.4%).

But the return games didn't improve. Boyer used four different kickoff returners and four different punt returners. Rookie JoJo Natson got the most action, 16 of each return over the final seven games. As energetic and promising as Natson was, the Jets' PR average fell from 31st in the league in '16 to 32nd and their KR average slipped from 15th to 23rd.

One more deficiency: Even though Rontez Miles and others came agonizingly close, the Green & White had no blocked kicks of any kind for the fourth straight year. But at least the pressure was being felt — the Jets had the third-best opponents' FG accuracy rate in the NFL at 72.4% (21-for-29).

Best Images of the Jets Specialists from the 2017 Season

Looking ForwardPunter seems set as Edwards, even after setting those franchise records, says he's determined to keep working hard, "get maybe 10 percent of the punts back" and continue on his desired road to a Pro Bowl berth. At long snapper, the transition from Tanner Purdum to rookie Thomas Hennessy didn't miss a beat or a snap. Kicker, however, needs to be squared away before free agency begins or else the Jets may need to bring in the successor to potential unrestricted free agent Catanzaro.

Returner still needs a steadying influence. Will the Jets throw it open to Natson, reserve/future signee Jalin Marshall and/or possible restricted FA Lucky Whitehead? Will they seek a return specialist on Day 2-3 of the draft? Or all of the above?

We didn't list the coverers and blockers up top because they were listed at their scrimmage positions, but this time of year is angst-filled for Boyer and his fellow ST coordinators. Three of the Jets' top five specialists in terms of total ST plays and ST tackles — Julian Stanford (team-high 387 plays, 19 tackles), Terrence Brooks (292/7) and Bruce Carter (254/10) — can become UFAs. And Miles (326 plays, team-leading 26 tackles) can become an RFA.

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