Saturday, January 28, 2012
Positional analysis: Special teams
By Rich Cimini
This is the ninth part in a nine-part review of 2011, a position-by-position analysis.
Position: Special teams
Overall grade (scale of 1 to 10): 7.5
Depth chart: PK Nick Folk, P T.J. Conley, PR Jeremy Kerley, PR Jim Leonhard, PR/KR Joe McKnight, KR Antonio Cromartie.
Gold star: McKnight.
Stat check: Opponents made 29 or 30 FGs against the Jets, the highest percentage in the league -- including 23-for-23 under 50 yards.
Analysis: This was a weird year for special teams. We saw a lot of good things from the Jets -- McKnight (31.6) led the league in kickoff returns by a significant margin -- but we also saw a lot of bad things, namely butter fingers. They turned it over six times -- two by McKnight, two by Cromartie, once by Kerley and once by Garrett McIntyre. That is simply unacceptable.
Folk was okay, not great. He made 76 percent of his FGs, tied for 27th in the league, but three of his misses came in the 50+ distance. Then again, he didn't have too many clutch kicks, as the Jets played only four games that were decided by seven points or less. McKnight was a revelation, delivering the longest play in franchise history -- 107-yard kickoff return. But his chance came only after an injury to Cromartie, so it wasn't like they expected great things out of McKnight.
Conley (40.1 net average, 21st) was average at best. Former P Steve Weatherford, in the Super Bowl with the Giants, isn't looking half-bad right about now. Kerley (10.9 average) wrested the punt-returning job from Leonhard and did a nice job, save for one hiccup in Washington. The coverage units, both punt and kickoff, were very good. The standouts were Nick Bellore (31 tackles) and Josh Mauga (20), but Bellore needs to be more disciplined (five penaltes for 55 yards).
2012 free agents: Folk (UFA), Leonhard (UFA).
On the bubble: Conley.