Thursday, June 9, 2011
Lockout analysis: Special teams
By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com is providing a daily breakdown on how the lockout is affecting the individual position groups.
Position: Special teams.
Depth chart: PK -- Nick Folk, Nick Novak; P -- Steve Weatherford, T.J. Conley; KOR -- Brad Smith, Antonio Cromartie; PR -- Joe McKnight, Jeremy Kerley (R), Kyle Wilson, Jerricho Cotchery, Jim Leonhard; LS -- Tanner Purdum.
Not under contract: Folk, Weatherford, Smith, Cromartie, James Ihedigbo (coverage), Eric Smith (coverage) and Drew Coleman (coverage).
Player hurt most by lockout: We'll go with a coach -- special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.
Player with most to gain: N/A.
Analysis: Westhoff's depth chart looks like Swiss cheese right now, with key free agents in nearly every unit. Like all special-teams coaches, he relies heavily on rookies and undrafted free agents to compete for spots, but that will be difficult because the rookies and UDFAs (still not allowed to sign) will be far behind when they arrive. It'll be tough, but if any coach can put together a solid unit in a few weeks (if there's that much time), it's Westhoff.
If the Jets can retain most of their key free agents, they should be fine, especially at punt returner. This is their deepest group of punt returners in years, although you have to figure that Leonhard and Cotchery -- both coming off major injuries -- will have to be eased back, if they're needed. The concern is at kicker and punter, especially if the incumbents -- Folk and Weatherford -- don't return. There won't be much time to find and/or settle on replacements.