Saturday, April 20, 2013
Draft preview: Special teams
By Rich Cimini
This is the sixth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Jets as they prepare for the draft:
Position: Special teams
Depth chart: PK -- Nick Folk, Derek Dimke; P -- Robert Malone, Ryan Quigley; PR -- Jeremy Kerley, Kyle Wilson; KR -- Joe McKnight, Clyde Gates, Antonio Cromartie; LS -- Tanner Purdum, Travis Tripucka.
Scouting report: The main storyline with special teams is the change at the top, with longtime assistant Ben Kotwica replacing the retired Mike Westhoff. Westhoff was an institution and, save for last season's debacle, did a fantastic job for more than a decade. The incumbent specialists and skill-position players are back. So people might be wondering, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" It's not a bad thing. Folk is a solid kicker, Malone is a promising young punter (he set a team record for gross average) and McKnight leads a strong group of returners. They got hurt last season by not having enough talent at the bottom of the roster, spots 35 to 46. Because of injuries, it was a revolving door and the unit that suffered the most was special teams, not surprisingly. As a result, it was a comedy of errors throughout the season. Hearing a new voice always will help. Westhoff admitted his shelf life with the Jets had expired.
The last time: The Jets drafted Kerley in the fifth round, 2011, in large part because of his big-play ability as a punt returner. He needs to be more aggressive; he set the league record last year for most fair catches in a season.
Potential targets: They signed Dimke and Quigley to provide minicamp and training-camp competition for Folk and Malone, respectively, so they're not looking to draft a kicker or punter. They need run-and-hit guys -- linebackers, safeties, tight end, etc., fast and physical players that can become core special teamers. They have glaring needs at those specific positions, so there's a good chance the special teams will get a big boost from this draft class. The top two receivers, Tavon Austin (West Virginia) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), offer dynamic playmaking ability as returners.
Need factor (on a scale of 1 to 10): 4