When you have one of the worst special teams units in the NFL, it’s hard to get worse. However, that’s what happened to the Jets special teams in 2016. After a very poor unit in 2015 which ended in the firing of special teams coach Bobby April, Todd Bowles hired Brant Boyer. April brought over two decades of experience at the position. Boyer, on the other hand, only had four-years experience as an assistant special teams coach.
That hire didn’t seem to work out as the unit made a comedy of errors and played poorly overall. Injures and inexperience played a part in the sub-par play.
New York Jets Special Teams End of Season Review
Nick Folk was certainty not inexperienced nor was he injured in 2016. After coming off an injury from the prior season, he played well as usual. He made 27 of his 31 field goal attempts for an 87.1% completion rate which was his highest since 2013. That percentage was also his third best mark in his seven-year career.
The downfall for Folk was the fact he missed two extra points. In his six years prior to 2016, he made all 311 extra point attempts. Of course the extra point was changed to make it more difficult in 2015 so it’s not too surprising.
Overall he had a good season, but his missed extra point and blocked field goal in Week One really set the scene for the season as the team lost 23-22.
The Jets will not go forward with Folk in the coming season as he was cut from the team last week.
The Jets used a seventh-round pick on Lachlan Edwards in the 2016 NFL Draft to replace Ryan Quigley. The team had high hopes for the Australian punter, but his production was below average.
Edwards had 75 punts in 2016. Pro Football Reference has him at 3,059 total punting yards which ranks him 20th in the NFL. They also have him at 40.8 yards per punt which ranks him 34th and the worst in that category.
NFL.com also has him down for 75 punts, but they have him 14th in total punting yards with 3,236 and 31st in yards per punt with 43.1. That was out of 38 players with Quigley below him unlike in the other ranking.
Jalin Marshall was an undrafted free agent who looked very promising in training camp. He easily made the team out of preseason and was primed to be the kick returner and punt returner as well as wide receiver depth.
Marshall started out well, but had trouble with ball security. He fumbled the ball four times during the season; two of which were early on and recovered by the opposition. He started struggling on punt and kick returns later in the season to the point where Bowles removed him from both jobs before Week 12.
Marshall tore his labrum which caused him to miss Week Four and Week Five. He also was inactive and dealt with a concussion which made him miss four more games from Week 13 to Week 16.
In 10 games he had 100 yards on 18 punt returns for an average of 5.6 yards per return. He also had 324 yards on 13 kick returns for an average of 24.9 yards per return.
He added a little more value as a wide receiver as he caught 14 of the 23 passes targeted at him for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeremy Ross was beat out in preseason by Marshall and thus cut from the team. He was signed by the Jets before Week Four to fill in for Marshall who had the torn labrum at that point. After two games, Marshall came back and Ross was once again cut. He was then re-signed before Week 12 before being released two games later. The Arizona Cardinals then picked him up before Week 15.
Ross ended up playing in four games for the Jets returning one punt for 10 yards and 11 kicks for 224 yards.
C.J. Spiller had a similar season to Ross. He was released by the New Orleans Saints after Week One, picked up by the Seattle Seahawks after Week Three, released after Week Seven, picked up by the Jets after Week Eight, and released after Week 13. In four games with the Jets he rushed three times for nine yards, caught one pass for seven yards, and returned five kicks for 96 yards.
Nick Marshall was on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad to start the 2016 season. The Jets signed him off the Jaguars practice squad after Week Five and he was active for Week Seven. He had one kick and punt return apiece in his first five games from Week Seven to Week 13. He got more action in Weeks 13-15 as he had 11 kick returns and five punt returns combined.
In his eight games with the Jets, he finished with 12 kick returns for 168 yards and six punt returns for 39 yards.
There’s not a whole lot to say about long snappers unless they are a Pro Bowler and America’s Got Talent celebrity like Jon Dorenbos of the Philadelphia Eagles. Tanner Purdum is slated to become a free agent so the Jets added Josh Latham on February 7 and Zach Triner in January as possible replacements.
The Other Returners
The Unit as a Whole
Kickers, punters, returners, and long snappers aren’t the only members of special teams. There is a mix and match of 11 guys which Boyer had to construct. In Rick Gosselin’s special teams rankings, the Jets were ranked 30th. That was only above the Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.
After Week 15 Boyer told the media that it’s been a tough year for special teams. He also stressed the fact that he didn’t want to get fired.
“ . . . I busted my [butt] to do the best I can here,” said Boyer according to Newsday. “I want to stay here, I want to finish the job that I started. Hell no I don’t want to get fired.”
He didn’t have much to work with at times as was evident in Week 15 when Bruce Carter, Marcus Williams, and Darron Lee were the only players on the field during kickoff that were also on the Week One roster.
The unit also had made multiple errors such as allowing two punts to be blocked during the season.
All-in-all it was a messy season for special teams. As bad as Boyer’s unit did, he may keep his job considering the injuries and inexperience he inherited.