For all the fans who know a wedge doesn’t always come with blue cheese dressing, what a good hang time for a kickoff is, and that there’s a difference between a dropkick and a drop punt, this day’s for you.
Special Teams Saturday.
We hear it all the time from the NFL’s coaches and players — "Special teams is one-third of the game" — but the mainstream media rarely pays attention, unless it’s to a placekicker on a hot streak or a cold streak or a returner who can’t be stopped or can’t stop with the muffs. At newyorkjets.com, we’re going to cover the Jets’ more closely with one story a week (if not more) devoted to the art(s) of coach Mike Westhoff’s specialists.
Already up on the site today, for instance, Eric Allen introduces the concept that the Jets are winners no matter who takes the opening coin toss, now that Pro Bowl kickoff returner Justin Miller is back at practice and Mike Nugent has beefed up his kickoffs.
And while my Saturday Radar entry won’t always be devoted to special teams, I didn’t want to reject a great little topic heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Patriots: the Jets’ kick-blocking potential. That’s something that Bill Belichick has noticed.
"They do a good job in every phase of the game," the Patriots head coach said when asked about the Jets’ special teams. "Their field goal rush is one of the best in the league. They got up on that last year and that was a big play in the [first] game."
Belichick has been known to praise every phase of an opponent’s attack during his Wednesday conference calls, but he has good reason for making this observation as he referred to Bryan Thomas busting through the right side of the Patriots’ line to block a late Stephen Gostkowski field goal try in Game 2 in the Meadowlands. The short field goal would have iced the Pats’ win. Instead, the Jets retained hope of tying the game with a last-minute touchdown.
"To go in there and block a kick — it’s always exciting," Thomas said this week. "Mike will tell us each week what in particular we have to do as far as whether we can be effective on field goal block. Field goals, extra points, they all matter in a game."
But the Jets’ rush as one of the best in the league? Bear in mind that Thomas’ block was the only blocked kick of any kind by the Green & White in the past four regular seasons. Here’s a chart showing the Jets vs. the NFL in that department from 2003-06:
|Avg. per Team||1.7||2.6||0.8||5.0|
And the Jets didn’t get any blocks in their four preseason games this year.
But they came close. In fact, the field goal block team put great pressure on the normally smooth operations of the David Akers-led Philadelphia FG team back on Aug. 31. Akers’ first try never got off, and on the second try it appeared he pushed his kick wide right because of heavy pressure from his left.
"Yeah, we were trying to get after him," said Drew Coleman, the second-year man who’s been flying off the edge this preseason. "We’re trying to get a lot of pressure and have other special teams coaches have to prepare for us, not think that their next kick is a freebie."
Coleman came to the Jets last year from TCU, where, besides playing corner, he came up with some kick rejections.
"I think I had two in college — and I ran past two more. I had too big of a jump on those," he said. "Blocking kicks is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, so I take it seriously."
Coincidentally, Coleman still wears uniform number 30. And back in the day when sportswriters used to use typewriters to type up their stories on copy paper, we would put the number 30, probably from XXX, at the bottom of those stories to signify to their editors "That’s it. I’m done. End of story."
I’m looking forward this season to seeing Drew, BT and company telling a few opposing kickers and punters, "That’s it. You’re done. End of story." And now I’m putting a 30 on this edition of Special Teams Saturday.
Tags: Bryan Thomas, Drew Coleman, Stephen Gostkowski
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