5. The NY Jets special teams will be much improved
One of the many issues for the Jets the last few years was a lackluster special teams play on all fronts. They struggled to solidify a consistent kicker in the aftermath of letting Nick Folk go elsewhere, punting was a disaster, to say the least, and they struggled to make any splash plays in the return game.
The Jets started by fixing the kicking issue last season when they signed Greg Zuerlein as a free agent. Zuerlein had one of the best seasons for the Jets in a long time, going 30-of-37 (81%) on field goal attempts and 28-of-29 on extra points.
In close games in the fourth quarter, he was 6-of-7 on field goals and 7-of-7 on extra points and also managed to make 9-of-11 field goals in the final two minutes of either half.
Despite Zuerlein's success, the Jets still struggled mightily in the punt game. They finished the season ranked 28th in punting, as the unit cost the Jets 8.5 points worse than the league average.
Punter Braden Mann ranked 21st in net average per punt, 24th in yards per return, and 22nd in touchbacks. Additionally, he had the most punts travel less than 25 yards and the second-most travel less than 30 yards.
In the return department, Braxton Berrios returned after an All-Pro-worthy 2021 season as a returner. He regressed mightily in 2022, averaging over seven yards per return fewer in 2022, and performed below the league average on punt returns as well.
This offseason, the Jets have made improvements across the board. Zuerlein appears better than last year, making 89% of his field goals and 100% of his extra points this preseason, including two field goals of over 50 yards and five over 40 yards.
Punter Thomas Morstead is a drastic improvement over Mann, averaging over 45 net yards per punt so far this preseason, including a staggering eight downed inside the 20 in just four games.
Being he has only punted 16 total times, that means half of his punts have been inside the 20-yard line, forcing opponents to drive the length of the field to score.
Finally, the Jets let Braxton Berrios go this offseason and replaced him with a plethora of options. Speedster Mecole Hardman has tons of return experience, but the Jets opted to allow undrafted free agent Xavier Gipson to handle the return duties.
After dropping his initial punt return in the Hall of Fame game, Gipson has provided a spark with his chances. On three kick returns, Gipson has averaged over 28 yards per return with a long of 45.
On his five punt returns, Gipson has totaled 67 yards for a staggering average of 13.4. Both would be significant improvements over Berrios last year.
To win a Super Bowl, the Jets need to have solid play on offense, defense, and special teams. Having a consistent kicker, an above-average punter, and also an explosive returner is crucial to special teams success.
They have flashed all three this preseason.