When the Jets drafted running back Trenton Cannon in April, there was a belief he’d become an immediate special teams contributor. He was pegged to be a returner, but Cannon has emerged as one of the team’s best gunners as he’s tied for the team lead with nine tackles.
“He beats people whether it’s a double or a single off the line,” punter Lac Edwards said. “Having a gunner who can beat a double is invaluable because when you’re punting, a lot of teams that directionally punt away from a double. Now, you have a guy like Cannon who can beat a double and you don’t necessarily have to do that. When teams try to dictate where you kick, now you don’t have to. He’s improved a lot during the year.”
Cannon is the fastest gunner Edwards has seen in both college and the NFL, but the Virginia State product beats opponents with quickness as well. The 2018 sixth-round pick’s background as a running back helps him as a gunner because he’s both physical and tough. What separates Cannon other than his speed is how easily he beats his opponents.
“He puts guys on his back in 15-20 yards,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of guys that are shoulder-to-shoulder when they get to the punt returner. If you can put guys on your back that way, they’re either going to block you in the back or you’re going to send the returner one way. He’s done a good job of angling the returner to the sideline.
“He’s been doing a good job. He just needs to keep watching film. Special teams is want-to. You have to put in effort and he does.”
Top Images from the First 10 Weeks of the 2018 Season
In college, Cannon was the Trojans’ returner and averaged 33.1 yards per kickoff return with three scoring returns in his final two seasons. Every day after practice, the 5’11”, 185-pound Cannon takes extra special teams reps as he continues to learn his new role. He catches punts off the JUGS machine in addition to working with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer and special teams ace Rontez Miles, whom he sits next to in every meeting.
“He has a big impact with his speed,” Miles said of Cannon. “Even if you take the speed away, there are plays where the speed isn’t involved. It’s hustle, hustling to the ball. If he misses a tackle, he’s right back up and running after the ball. He’s making the most of his opportunity. He’s flying around, man.”
Cannon has yet to meet someone that can keep up with him on special teams and is embracing his role as he transitions from a DII program to the NFL.
“I’m just going out there and having fun, helping the team out, doing whatever I can,” he said. “My speed is an advantage, so I just use that at gunner and it helps me get the down the field.”