Nick Bawden, NY Jets, Contract, Fullback
Nick Bawden, New York Jets, Getty Images

Giving deserved kudos to New York Jets’ unsung heroes

Plenty of the New York Jets‘ biggest contributors have gotten well-deserved praise for their roles in the team’s 26-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Zach Wilson, Bryce Hall, Conor McDermott, and Michael Carter are among the team’s brightest stars in Week 16.

Among the many Jets who came to play against the Jags, perhaps no man has been more revered for his performance than Braxton Berrios.

In the second quarter, Berrios set MetLife Stadium ablaze with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that gave the Jets a 13-9 lead. It was a beautiful moment of revenge for Berrios, who had just been snubbed from a Pro Bowl selection earlier in the week (merely being named an alternate).

Berrios’ big touchdown return turned out to be a crucial difference-maker in a game the Jets ended up winning by only five points. It will go down as one of the most memorable highlights from an afternoon where the Jets racked up plenty of splashy plays.

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The moment was a special one for Berrios – but let’s not forget that he did not do it on his own! He had 10 teammates on the field who played an equally integral role (arguably even a larger role) in making the game-altering touchdown happen.

Berrios showcased good vision and outstanding top speed on his return, but he was given a gaping hole to run through by his team of blockers. He wasn’t touched by a single defender on his way to the end zone and never even had to stop his momentum.

Jets owner Woody Johnson shared an angle of the play that gives us a great view of how everything went down.

Five players stand out as key cogs in that play.

Firstly, going from your left to your right on the screen, check out the edge-setters who protected Berrios from lateral pursuit on either side as he crossed the 20-yard line: Tevin Coleman (#23) and Trevon Wesco (#85) on your left and Tyler Kroft (#81) on your right. They took great angles to their defenders to seal them out of Berrios’ lane and were each the aggressors in their respective battles.

Next, focus on the two key blocks around the 30-yard line where Berrios breaks free.

On your left, Nick Bawden (#48) shows an excellent anchor as he engages his man and holds his ground for a good two-plus seconds (a relative eternity on kickoffs), keeping the lane open as Berrios runs behind him. If Bawden were moved back at all, Berrios’ lane would have been impeded and the return would not happen.

On your right, veteran special teamer LaRoy Reynolds (#49) makes a huge play in his Jets debut as he comes up with the decisive blow that sends Berrios on his way to paydirt.

Working a double team with Daniel Brown (#87), Reynolds plows his man downhill and sends him into the ground, pushing him so far that he takes out another defender; that second defender being the one who comes the closest to getting a hand on Berrios. That second defender was unblocked and likely could have stopped Berrios or at least slowed him down if not for Reynolds’ devastating block getting in his way.

Oftentimes, fans forget that there are 11 players on a special teams unit just like there are 11 players on offense and defense. Kick returning is not a one-man show. Good blocking is an essential part of any productive return unit.

Give Berrios all the credit in the world for making this remarkable play, but don’t forget to also praise the unsung heroes who gave him the chance to do it.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds 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: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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