Blake Cashman and Michael Carter II highlight Brant Boyer's best NY Jets special teams players.
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Who are the best and worst special teams contributors on the NY Jets‘ roster entering the 2021 NFL season?

While the kicker, punter, long snapper, and returners are the headliners of a franchise’s special teams unit, they are not entirely responsible for their squad’s special teams output. We often forget to attribute credit (and blame) to the many other players on the field during a special teams play.

For example, in 2020, the Jets’ kicker (combination of Sam Ficken and Sergio Castillo), punter (Braden Mann), and long snapper (Thomas Hennessy) trio combined to play 383 special teams snaps. That made up only 8.1% of the 4,718 total special teams snaps accumulated by Jets players.

Who are the best and worst off-ball special teamers on Brant Boyer‘s Jets unit going into 2021? Let’s stack up the members of New York’s 2021 rookie class that have extensive special teams experience, followed by a ranking of the non-rookies who have made notable special teams contributions in the NFL. All special teams stats are via Pro Football Focus.


Jets’ special teams rookies

7. Brandin Echols

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 59.8 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 139 over 24 games (5.8 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 7.2 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 0-to-0
  • Kickoff Return: 0 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 8 snaps
  • Punt Return: 58 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 0 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 73 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Brandin Echols was not a big part of the Kentucky Wildcats’ special teams unit. He occasionally appeared for the punt return unit and consistently rushed for the field goal/extra point block unit, but almost never played in kick coverage.

6. Jason Pinnock

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 62.6 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 93 over 13 games (6.6 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 5.1 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 0-to-0
  • Kickoff Return: 15 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 16 snaps
  • Punt Return: 79 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 1 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 87 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Like Echols at Kentucky, Jason Pinnock had an uneventful special teams career at Pittsburgh. Most of his snaps came for the punt return and field goal/extra point block units, so there weren’t many opportunities for him to do anything notable.

5. Isaiah Dunn

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 60.2 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 235 over 29 games (8.1 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 4.3 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 2.0-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 0 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 29 snaps
  • Punt Return: 53 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 4 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 149 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Highly-valued undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn is yet another rookie cornerback who will have to adjust to an NFL special teams role after not getting much experience in college. However, he did log a tad bit more experience than Echols and Pinnock in coverage, recording two tackles and missing one over 29 kickoff and punt coverage snaps.

4. Michael Carter

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 63.0 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 221 over 44 games (5.0 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 0.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 0-to-0
  • Kickoff Return: 147 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 18 snaps
  • Punt Return: 49 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 7 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 0 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

The vast majority of Michael Carter‘s work on special teams came as a blocker for the Tar Heels’ return units, primarily for their kickoff return unit. Carter did a decent job, never committing a penalty and grading out right around an average level.

Some of Carter’s kickoff return snaps came as the actual kickoff returner. He returned 29 kickoffs in his North Carolina career, averaging a ho-hum 22.4 yards per tote. The 2020 NFL average was 22.5.

3. Jamien Sherwood

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 65.7 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 549 over 34 games (16.1 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 3.6 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 1.2-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 88 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 160 snaps
  • Punt Return: 120 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 125 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 56 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Jamien Sherwood enters the NFL with some experience at five different special teams units. He played in kick coverage quite often, logging 285 kickoff and punt coverage snaps.

Sherwood struggled as a finisher in coverage, making only six tackles while missing five. However, he salvaged his PFF grade through solid blocking for the kickoff return and punt return units.

2. Hamsah Nasirildeen

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 70.5 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 496 over 35 games (14.2 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 2.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 3.7-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 59 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 84 snaps
  • Punt Return: 113 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 151 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 89 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Hamsah Nasirildeen was a solid performer in kickoff and punt coverage for the Seminoles, collecting 11 tackles while missing three.

Nasirildeen quickly progressed into a highly disciplined special teams player. When playing special teams over the first eight games of his freshman season, Nasirldeen missed three tackles and committed one penalty. Over the next 25 games of his career at Florida State, Nasirildeen never missed another tackle or committed another penalty on special teams.

1. Michael Carter II

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 75.6 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 448 over 42 games (10.7 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 2.2 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 10.5-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 65 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 117 snaps
  • Punt Return: 32 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 93 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 141 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Michael Carter II did a phenomenal job in kick coverage for the Blue Devils, collecting 21 special teams tackles and missing only two. Owner of a 4.36 time in the forty-yard dash at his Duke pro day, Carter II combined his speed with great body control and fundamentals to become a high-level playmaker on special teams. Notably, he only committed one penalty over his 448 career special teams snaps.

Carter II has a solid amount of all-around special teams experience. He spent time blocking for the kickoff return and punt return units while also routinely rushing for the field goal/extra point block unit.

Of all the Jets’ rookies, Carter II is easily the most prepared to make an instant impact on special teams.

Jets’ NFL special teams players

11. Lamar Jackson

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 48.8 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 93 over 13 games (7.2 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 10.8 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 0-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 25 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 16 snaps
  • Punt Return: 29 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 6 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 17 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

The Jets gave Lamar Jackson some rookie-year experience on all five special teams units that a cornerback could conceivably play. He struggled a bit, picking up zero tackles and one missed tackle over 22 coverage snaps and also picking up a penalty for running into the kicker.

Jackson seldom played special teams in college, mainly rushing for the field goal/extra point block unit and rarely appearing elsewhere. He struggled as a special teamer at that level, committing three penalties over 363 snaps (8.3 per 1,000 snaps) and making zero tackles over 79 snaps in kickoff and punt coverage (although he also didn’t miss any).

10. Ryan Griffin

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 58.2 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 1,051 over 105 games (10.0 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 1.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 1.6-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 317 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 42 snaps
  • Punt Return: 66 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 236 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 0 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 390 snaps

Ryan Griffin has been a protector for the placekicking unit throughout his career. His playing time in other roles has fluctuated, though, as he has never been all that good on special teams.

The Jets did use Griffin fairly heavily on special teams in 2020, giving him 208 snaps as he regularly participated on kickoff returns and punts in addition to his usual duties as a placekicking protector. He posted a career-high special teams grade of 74.7, making five tackles and missing two while throwing some good blocks for the kickoff return unit.

However, Griffin had a career-low special teams grade of 45.0 in his first season with the Jets.

9. Daniel Brown

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 61.3 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 1,151 over 74 games (15.6 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 1.7 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 1.4-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 346 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 202 snaps
  • Punt Return: 185 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 300 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 0 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 118 snaps

Daniel Brown has been a decent special teams player throughout his career, although he had a down year for the Jets in 2020. He led the Jets with 330 special teams snaps, including team-highs of 63 kickoff coverage snaps and 83 punt coverage snaps, but he made only two tackles and missed three. PFF tagged Brown with a special teams grade of 50.8.

8. Chris Herndon

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 64.3 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 279 over 33 games (8.5 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 10.8 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 0-to-0
  • Kickoff Return: 192 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 3 snaps
  • Punt Return: 82 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 2 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 0 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Chris Herndon needs to be careful with his penalty proneness, as he has already committed three penalties over just 279 special teams snaps.

With that being said, Herndon’s solidity as a pass blocker on offense translates to special teams. He does a solid job creating room for the kickoff return and punt return units, hence his respectable PFF grade.

7. Ashtyn Davis

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 64.2 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 61 over 10 games (6.1 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 0.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 1.0-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 18 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 11 snaps
  • Punt Return: 7 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 24 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 1 snap
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Ashtyn Davis received a small portion of special teams snaps in his rookie season and was a mixed bag. He missed three tackles and mustered only 43 yards out of two kickoff return chances, but he also made three tackles over just 35 snaps in kickoff and punt coverage. They were high-quality tackles, too, leading to his solid PFF grade.

Davis was an excellent special teams player in college. He made 18 tackles and missed only three, doing so over 206 kickoff and punt coverage snaps, which is a tremendous level of efficiency.

The track star also returned 70 kickoffs for Cal, although he wasn’t amazing in that role with an average of 22.9 yards per return (he did have an 89-yard touchdown in 2018, but it was against Idaho State).

6. Javelin Guidry

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 61.3 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 87 over 11 games (7.9 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 0.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 2-to-0 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 0 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 42 snaps
  • Punt Return: 22 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 16 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 7 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Javelin Guidry did a nice job over a limited amount of special teams reps in his rookie season, recording two tackles and missing none while committing zero penalties. He did overrun the returner on a couple of plays early in the season, knocking his grade down.

Guidry mostly played for the kickoff coverage unit during his collegiate career at Utah, having a mostly uneventful time as he made three tackles, missed two tackles, and committed no penalties across 214 total special teams snaps in three seasons.

A former track runner with 4.29 speed, Guidry has a lot of potential in this phase. His low career numbers in terms of missed tackles and penalties suggest that he just might have the necessary level of control to harness his speed and turn it into a dangerous weapon.

Jets X-Factor Membership

5. Bennett Jackson

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 81.3 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 136 over 10 games (13.6 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 7.4 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 4-to-0 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 47 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 52 snaps
  • Punt Return: 19 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 11 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 7 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Bennett Jackson has been able to establish himself as a special teams stud with a very limited amount of NFL playing time.

Over just 136 career special teams snaps across 10 games with the Ravens and Jets (including 52 in kickoff coverage and 11 in punt coverage) Jackson has made four tackles and missed none while earning a PFF special teams grade north of 80. He had an 86.6 grade for Baltimore and New York in 2019 and followed it up with a 71.4 grade for the Jets in 2020.

Jackson also has three tackles and zero missed tackles in his preseason career.

4. Sharrod Neasman

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 65.2 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 1,230 over 56 games (18.8 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 3.7 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 3.0-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 247 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 326 snaps
  • Punt Return: 177 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 144 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 176 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Sharrod Neasman is a solid special teams player. He has never quite achieved star status (like the player at the top of the list), but he got the job done on a yearly basis over five years in Atlanta. Neasman has made 21 career special teams tackles while missing seven. In 2020, he set career-highs with nine tackles and four misses.

In 2019, Neasman recovered two loose balls on special teams. He scooped up a forced fumble on a kickoff against Philadelphia and also secured a blocked extra point against Tampa Bay that he nearly returned for two points.

3. Corey Ballentine

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 69.8 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 376 over 28 games (13.4 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 2.7 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 9-to-0 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 93 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 86 snaps
  • Punt Return: 68 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 54 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 75 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Corey Ballentine has struggled at cornerback in the NFL, but he has been a good special teams player. Ballentine has made nine tackles in kickoff or punt coverage and has yet to be credited with a miss. Eight of those tackles came over 15 games with the Jets in 2020.

We’re focusing on off-ball contributions in this article, but it is worth noting that Ballentine is also a good kickoff returner. He led the Jets with 12 kickoff returns in 2020 and averaged a team-best 26.2 yards per return, nearly five yards better than the averages of the six other players to attempt at least two returns. He also averaged 25.6 yards over 10 returns for the Giants in 2019.

As a college player at Division-II Washburn University, Ballentine blocked four field goals.

2. Blake Cashman

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 80.8 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 109 over 11 games (9.9 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 0.0 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 6-to-0 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 55 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 11 snaps
  • Punt Return: 14 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 26 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 3 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Blake Cashman has been a monster over his limited time on special teams with the Jets.

In his 2019 rookie season, Cashman threw a bunch of good blocks for the kickoff return unit, which is where he played 40 of his 64 special teams snaps. Cashman had a 73.9 PFF special teams grade that season without making any tackles or blocking any kicks, which is a testament to the quality of his return-team blocking.

Cashman quietly played 45 special teams snaps over four games for the Jets in 2020, doing a crazy amount of damage in such a short stint. He racked up a whopping six tackles over just 24 kickoff and punt coverage snaps (5 kickoff, 19 punt), missing zero tackles in the process.

This has been a continuation of the production that Cashman displayed on special teams when he was a Minnesota Golden Gopher. Cashman had an 82.4 special teams grade in college, making 38 tackles and missing five.

1. Justin Hardee

  • Career PFF special teams grade: 73.1 (2020 NFL average: 62.5)
  • Career special teams snaps: 1,230 over 56 games (22.0 per game)
  • Career special teams penalties per 1,000 snaps: 8.1 (2020 NFL average: 2.8)
  • Career special teams tackle/missed tackle ratio: 6.6-to-1 (2020 NFL average: 2.9)
  • Kickoff Return: 279 snaps
  • Kickoff Coverage: 377 snaps
  • Punt Return: 242 snaps
  • Punt Coverage: 218 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Block: 114 snaps
  • Field Goal/Extra Point Protection: 0 snaps

Free-agent pickup Justin Hardee is a special teams Swiss Army knife who also has game-breaking ability. In New Orleans, he participated regularly in five phases and drew the spotlight through his high-level production as a coverage man. Hardee has made 33 tackles on special teams while missing only five.

In 2020, the Saints allowed an NFL-low 2.3 yards per punt return, less than half the average of any other team. Hardee was the driving force behind that monumental success, leading New Orleans in special teams tackles (8) and PFF’s special teams grade (90.8).

Penalties are a downside with Hardee, as he picked up 10 of them over 1,230 special teams snaps with the Saints, but he cleaned things up a bit in 2020 as he committed only one penalty over 252 special teams snaps.

Hardee had a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown against the Buccaneers in 2017. In 2018, Hardee caught a 10-yard pass from Taysom Hill to convert on a fake punt (he was featured on another fake punt with Hill in 2019, but he dropped a wide-open pass). From 2019-20, he tied for the Saints’ team lead with three downed punts, two of those coming inside of the five-yard line.

Audio Version available to members only. Learn more here.

Download Jet X Mobile on the App Store and Google Play.

Download the free Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Google/Android (Google Play) device.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed to stay up to date with the New York Jets.

Join the official Discord community to connect with likeminded fans.

Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: [email protected] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

3
Comments

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Keep this article around for cutdown day. Special Teams decides roster spots. If you ever wondered why Bennett Jackson & Daniel Brown are on the 53 it’s because of ST. Brant Boyer has a lot of teaching to do with these rookie CB’s, but very optimistic about Sherwood & Nasrildeen

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Thank you for another innovative and outstanding article. No one , and I mean no one, provides the unique insight that we get here on Jets X Factor, your work is consistently excellent and unique. Thank you again