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Jets vs. Lions: Week 1 special teams grades

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Andre Roberts #19 of the New York Jets runs the ball in for a touchdown on a punt return in the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Andre Roberts #19 of the New York Jets runs the ball in for a touchdown on a punt return in the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The New York Jets shocked the NFL world with a dominant display of football against the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Nothing, however, was as shocking as the play of their special teams unit.

Perhaps it was a contagion of prosperity that accounted for the New York Jets special teams success on Monday night or perhaps they were simply an improved unit. Whatever it may be, the Jets special teams looked as good as they have in years on Monday night.

It was truly a night and day difference between how the team’s specialists looked in the preseason compared to how they looked against the Detroit Lions, and not just because it was a night game. The special teams not only looked competent but flourished in every aspect of the game.

Perhaps the most noteworthy and impactful performance came courtesy of new return man Andre Roberts. Roberts gives the team a sure-handed, veteran presence in the return game and he showed Monday night why he’s been doing this in the league for so long.

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The former Atlanta Falcon broke off a number of solid punt returns, most notably a 78-yarder in which he tiptoed along the sideline on his way to a Jets touchdown. This is something that the Jets faithful have not been accustomed to in recent years with the team’s last return touchdown coming way back in 2012 when the late Joe McKnight took a kickoff to the house.

The Jets have longed for stability at returner and have seen the likes of Kalif Raymond and Jojo Natson come through in the past year with little success. Not since the days of Brad Smith and Leon Washington have the Jets had a consistently good return game and Roberts could very well be that guy for the team.

Additional praise should go out to the members of the return game who did an excellent job creating lanes for Roberts to burst through. Terrence Brooks, Charone Peake, and Trenton Cannon all had fantastic blocks on Roberts touchdown and should be given just as much credit for the team’s success.

An area of special teams where the team also excelled this week is with the punting unit. While the Jets were only forced to punt three times, punter Lachlan Edwards did a great job of playing the field position game and limiting the Lions return game.

Edwards downed two punts inside the 20 including one inside the 10 with enough backspin on it to make a professional golfer proud. Something that should not be understated is the fact that the Jets did not allow the Lions to return a single kick in this game, not on a kickoff or a punt.

This is a very valuable tool, something even more valuable given the fact that the Lions return man, Jamal Agnew, was one of the league’s top return men last year. The speedy cornerback returned two punts for touchdowns in 2017 totaling a league-high 447 yards on an also league-high 15.4 yards per attempt.

Agnew wasn’t able to return a single kick thanks in part to the efforts of Edwards and the big leg of kicker Jason Myers who kicked for a touchback on each one of his kickoffs.

Myers had a busy debut with the Jets making all six of his extra point attempts and nailing both of his field goals, the longest being from just 35 yards out. It still remains to be seen as to whether the Jets will roll with Myers for the remainder of the season but the former Jacksonville Jaguar’s roster spot appears to become safer and safer as the days go by.

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At the end of the day, this was likely one of the most complete performances from a Jets special teams unit since the days of Mike Westhoff and special team coordinator Brant Boyer should sleep well at night knowing his job is safe, at least for the moment.

Final Grade: A

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