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Jets draft preview: Special teams

5/2/2014

This is the sixth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Special teams.

Current personnel: PK Nick Folk (signed through 2017), P Ryan Quigley (2005), LS Tanner Purdum (2014), KR Jacoby Ford (2014), PR Jeremy Kerley (2014), PR Kyle Wilson (2014), KR Clyde Gates (2014).

Newcomers: Ford (Oakland Raiders).

Departures: KR Josh Cribbs (free agent), KR Antonio Cromartie (cut/Arizona Cardinals), KR Darius Reynaud (free agent).

Top salary-cap charge: Folk, $3.6 million.

Scouting report: It's a mixed bag. The Jets were happy to retain Folk, who signed a four-year, $12 million contract, but there are concerns for new special-teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey. The once-formidable unit needs an upgrade in a few areas, a sentiment shared by former STC Mike Westhoff, who criticized the talent level at the end of last season. "The personnel is limited -- and I'm being kind," he said.

Coverage and return units are populated by players in the bottom third of the roster, and the bottom third has eroded over the years. This offseason, they lost their third-leading tackler, Isaiah Trufant (Cleveland Browns), who served as a gunner and played 233 snaps on special teams. They finished in the middle of the pack (17th) in overall performance, according to a formula used by ESPN Stats & Information, but it should be higher. The addition of Ford, who scored on three kickoffs in 2010 for the Raiders, should bring some sizzle -- if he's healthy. McGaughey said he'd like to import competition for Ford. He also said his No. 1 objective is to improve the punt coverage.

Potential targets: The Jets need more run-and-hit athletes. With 12 draft picks, including nine in Rounds 4-7, they have plenty of ammo. By the time they get done drafting and signing college free agents, they'll be stocked up on receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs. Remember these names: Kadron Boone and James Wright, former LSU receivers. They won't be drafted, but they were two of McGaughey's top special-teamers at LSU. The draft's top returners are Dri Archer (Kent State) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon), both running backs. They're small, but fast. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) also has exciting return ability.

Need rating (scale 1 to 10): 6.