Who has the leg up? More than a week into training camp, the Jets' competition at placekicker is ongoing. Regardless of whether Greg Zuerlein or Eddie Piñeiro claim the spot, the Jets are guaranteed their seventh different opening-day kicker in the last seven years.
"I think we've had, I don't know how many guys in camp since I've been here," said special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. "It's quite a few and I would really like to get that settled down to be honest. That was a big focus on bringing in Greg [Zuerlein] and re-signing Eddie [Piñeiro] and letting these guys compete."
In five games last season with the Jets, Piñeiro was a perfect 8 of 8 on his field-goal attempts. In addition to hitting his first three kicks vs. the Saints in Week 14, Piñeiro nailed a 51-yarder against the Buccaneers in Week 17. He re-signed in March, the same month the Green & White signed Zuerlein. Zuerlein, who spent the 2020-21 seasons with the Cowboys, has always been known for his leg strength. He has hit on 55% (38 of 69) of 50-plus field-goal attempts and his touchback percentage last season was a career-high 80%.
Thus far in camp, the two Jets kickers have had three frames apiece. All square headed into the week, Zuerlein went a perfect 4 of 4 on Monday while Piñeiro rebounded after a couple of misses to go 2of 4.
"They're both kicking really well, numbers are pretty similar," Boyer said. "They're both fixing what I asked them to fix when they left, and we'll see who makes them in the games and we will make a decision after that. We will talk obviously to Joe [Douglas] and [Robert] Saleh, and we make the best decision on what the team is looking for and what we need."
The kickers figure in to get a few boots Saturday night at MetLife Stadium during the team's annual Green & White practice. The Jets will play the Eagles, the Falcons and the Giants in the preseason and have joint practice sessions with Atlanta (2) and New York's NFC representative (1).
"If you can find stability at that spot and get your three specialist spots, have those stable at least, your core is always going to change, but at least your three specialists are working together all the time and you have the same guys who are working with the same guys all the time," Boyer said. "I think that'll really help this football team."
The Jets are set at long-snapper with Thomas Hennessy, who's still pitching a perfect game. In five seasons in green and white, Hennessy has never been charged with an errant snap and he has not committed a penalty. Braden Mann, who is the only punter in camp, who got injured in Week 1 last season, finished with 10 games played and upped his yards/punt average (43.9 to 45.7) and also forced 20 touchbacks on 22 kickoffs.
"I think that if you look at his last four to five games, that's what he was going to be all year," Boyer said of Mann. "I think he really improved toward the end of the year; he was finally getting healthy again. I look for a big year for Braden, I really do. I think he's as talented as anyone in the league."
With two-thirds of the kicking operation in place, more time will be necessary to decide the Zuerlein/Piñeiro duel. Boyer said that both competitors have done what's asked of them to this point.
"Instead of slicing or hooking every once in a while, now he's hitting it clean and hitting it straight," Boyer said of Zuerlein. "For Eddie, it was his rise last year, he wasn't getting a good enough rise and he has fixed it, so both of them done a really good job so far we will see where it takes us."
Boyer's got a good group featuring an All-Pro return man in Braxton Berrios, who helped the club finish first in kickoff returns and second in punt returns last season. Coverage units also ranked second in opponents KO returns, but there is room for growth on punt coverage and Boyer wants fewer penalties. And as the kicking competition continues, Boyer has his eyes on a lot of battles.
"I think there's some guys out there that I'm excited about and a whole bunch of guys who are battling for a few spots and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out in the games.," he said.
See the Green & White on the field in full pads during week two at training camp.