Michael Nania doles out credit to the unsung heroes of the New York Jets’ elite 2019 special teams unit.
For the second consecutive season, the Jets enjoyed high-quality performance from their special teams, ranking fourth in DVOA after topping the league in 2019. Aside from poor field goal/extra point kicking via Kaare Vedvik and Sam Ficken (31st in both FG% and XP%), Brant Boyer‘s crew was excellent across the board, ranking 12th in kickoff return DVOA, fourth in both punting and punt return DVOA, and first in kickoff coverage DVOA.
In the return game, the Jets did not quite reach the heights that Andre Roberts carried them to in 2018 (first in punt return DVOA and second in kickoff return DVOA), but they still found plenty of success through a pair of scrapheap pickups. Braxton Berrios averaged 11.2 yards per punt return, third-best out of 38 players with at least 10 punt returns. Vyncint Smith averaged 29.9 yards per kickoff return, second-best out of 41 players with at least 10 kickoff returns.
Berrios and Smith undoubtedly showed elite potential as returners. However, the fact that the Jets were able to achieve solidity with a pair of unproven players who were added very late in the process (in Smith’s case, during the season) is a testament to Boyer and how consistently his units were carving out running lanes.
I took a look back at the Jets’ successful kick returns in 2019 and tallied which players threw crucial blocks on each play, crediting them with assists for their unheralded efforts.
I categorized “successful” punt returns as punts that were returned for at least 10 yards with a net yardage total of under 40 yards (for example, a 59-yard punt with a 17-yard return is a 42-yard net and thus would not qualify). The Jets had seven of these across 21 returns (33.3%), all returned by Berrios. Multiple players could be (and usually were) credited on one play. Here are the results: