4. Special Teams
We’ve already mentioned a few offensive keys as well as a defensive key, and now it’s time to talk about the improvement of the special teams.
Last year, the Jets had one of the worst special teams units in the NFL. Braden Mann was statistically the worst punter in the NFL last year.
Rewatching some of the tape from the Patriots game they would eventually lose 10-3 was nauseating as, on four separate occasions, Mann punted the ball into the end zone instead of capitalizing on pinning the opponent deep in that game alone.
Braxton Berrios took major steps back as a returner as well. In 2021, Berrios was the best returner in the league by average return yardage, earning a Pro Bowl bid in the process. In 2022, he regressed in both punt and kick return average, finishing towards the bottom third of returners.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein was solid last year and remains a key contributor for the team, bringing consistency to a position of struggle throughout the Jets' history.
Currently, the Jets rank seventh in average net yards per punt, as Thomas Morstead has been a huge upgrade in that area. He is also tied for fourth with 12 punts downed inside the 20 so far and has only lost two to touchback.
10 punts have been returned but for just 6.2 yards per return, a crucial stat to emphasize how good the coverage has been from Irv Charles and Justin Hardee, amongst others.
Return man Xavier Gipson won fans over Week 1 with his improbable walk-off punt return touchdown against the Bills but has been solid since as well.
He ranks eighth in average punt return with 13.7 yards per return on his 10 attempts. He’s also been a solid kick returner as well, averaging 23.8 yards per return, good for 11th in the NFL.
Special teams are often the most overlooked part of a game, but the difference they can make is massively important to the outcome. A punt downed inside the five-yard line instead of trickling into the endzone can flip field position, create short fields, or lead to safeties. Likewise, a big punt return can make life easier for the offense, especially when they are struggling.
Maintaining the success of the special teams and combining that with a dominant defense and a “good enough” offense can be a recipe for success for the Jets into the winter months and playoff push.