NY Jets Post-NFL Draft State of the Roster: Specialists

NY Jets (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets have done an excellent job of rebuilding their special teams over the last few years.

It wasn’t very long ago that the NY Jets consistently had one of the worst special-teams units in the NFL. In fact, just three years ago, it was a surprise to many that special-teams coordinator Brant Boyer still had his job.

Boy, what a difference just a few short years could make.

The Jets shocked their entire fanbase back in 2018 after going from arguably the worst special-teams unit in the NFL to the best. By season’s end, two players from the unit had made the Pro Bowl in kicker Jason Myers and returner Andre Roberts.

And despite the fact that both left the following offseason, the Jets still ranked among the best in the league in most special-teams statistics the following season.

That was despite a lackluster kicker and an underwhelming punter too. Going into 2020, Jets fans have high expectations for their special-teams unit after the incredible job that Boyer has done over the last two years.

It often gets overlooked, but a team’s special-teams play is can sometimes be the crucial difference-maker in close matchups. And the Jets seem to have that edge over their competition.

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Let’s take a look at the team’s specialists going into the 2020 season.

NY Jets specialists

  • Sam Ficken, K
  • Brett Maher, K
  • Braden Mann, P (R)
  • Thomas Hennessy, LS

For the sake of this overview, we won’t be looking at the Jets’ projected returners — solely those whose primary position is on special teams. In that case, this will be limited to the true “specialists.”

The Jets are once again set to go into training camp with a battle at the kicker position. And they’ll be hoping for more successful results than last season.

Gang Green cycled through the likes of Chandler Catanzaro, Taylor Bertolet, and Kaare Vedvik before finally settling on Sam Ficken in 2019. And while the former Los Angeles Rams kicker stabilized the position, he was underwhelming at best.

Ficken made just 70 percent of his field-goal attempts and missed three extra points in what was a lackluster season. Now going into 2020, he won’t be guaranteed anything.

His main competition will be former Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher. Maher had a relatively successful rookie season making 80 percent of his field-goal tries before imploding in 2019.

The former CFL kicker made just 20-of-30 field goals (66.7 percent) and was released by the team in early December. On the plus side, he did make all 36 of his extra-point attempts.

Maher and Ficken will compete for the kicker job in the preseason, but if neither impresses enough, don’t be surprised to see the Jets try their hand at the waiver wire for the second consecutive season.

The other two positions will feature a lot less drama.

The Jets selected Texas A&M punter Braden Mann in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and the former Ray Guy Award winner will hopefully be an improvement over the consistently subpar Lachlan Edwards.

Mann has a massive leg and will likely be asked to assume kickoff responsibilities as well — a role he filled with at Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, the one and only Thomas Hennessy will return for his fourth season as the Jets’ long snapper.

The 25-year-old led all long snappers in special-teams tackles last year with four and he’s the only long snapper in the NFL to have recorded three or more tackles in each of the last three seasons.

Just some advanced analytics for all you long snapper lovers out there.

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Ultimately, the Jets could very well boast both a new kicker and punter this season. The hope is that Mann will be an immediate upgrade over Edwards and that the team could once again find a solution for the kicker position.

Only time will tell.