Sunday, July 22, 2012
Camp preview: Special teams
By Rich Cimini
Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:
Position: Special teams
Projected starters: PK Nick Folk, P T.J. Conley, KR Joe McKnight, PR Jeremy Kerley, LS Tanner Purdum.
New faces: PK Josh Brown.
Going, going, gone: PR Jim Leonhard.
Player to watch: Tim Tebow. Yep, that guy. He worked in minicamp as the personal protector on the punt team, and the Jets say they have no qualms about using him there during the season. Yes, it's a wrinkle that will force opponents to be on their toes for a gadget play, but it's also risky, asking your No. 2 quarterback to run downfield and make tackles. Coordinator Mike Westhoff started cooking up ways to utilize Tebow as soon as the trade was finalized.
Potential strength: The Jets are a team of many happy returns. McKnight is dynamite as a kickoff returner (a league-high 31.6 average last season) and Kerley is emerging is a very good punt returner (ninth with a 10.9 average). They can change field position in a heartbeat, and that will be important early in the season. The offense will experience growing pains in the new system, and a short field will be its best friend.
Potential weakness: The punting game has to get better. Conley finished 30th and 18th in gross and net average, respectively. The only competition on the roster is Travis Baltz, but that could change at any time. If Conley gets off to a slow start in camp, the Jets will be on the look-out for possible replacements.
Wild card: Brown, who was signed after the draft to compete with Folk. Brown isn't a wannabe or a has-been; he's a proven kicker in this league, still capable of getting the job done. He got cut by the Rams because he was in the final year of a five-year, $14.2 million contract, and they wanted to get younger and cheaper. Brown vs. Folk is a legitimate competition that probably won't be decided until the third pre-season game. Folk responded favorably last summer when he was challenged by the then-unproven Nick Novak, but there will be more pressure this time because of Brown's stature.