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STS*: Kerley Injury, Turnovers Impact Returns

Posted by Andrew LeRay on November 26, 2011 – 12:26 pm

The Jets special teams have arguably been the most consistent unit all season. First-year returners Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight have enjoyed success as special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff draws up blocking schemes to spring the two loose in the open field.

Kerley’s numbers as a punt returner are not jaw-dropping. He’s averaging 9.4 yards per return. But he has proven to be a reliable option and has earned the trust and respect of Westhoff.

“I just have a feeling about him,” said Westhoff. “He’s a combination of sure-handed and explosive.”

With Kerley listed as questionable and a game-time decision for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Westhoff may need to fill his spot. Kerley’s knee injury held him out last Thursday in Denver, leaving S Jim Leonhard to handle the punt-return duties.

In Week 10, the Jets used McKnight to return a punt in addition to Kerley and Leonhard. McKnight fumbled his only opportunity, leading to a New England field goal.

“Joe had been playing pretty well,” said Westhoff. “He came to me and said, ‘I can get this, give me a chance.’ We gave him a shot. I liked the enthusiasm, didn’t like the result.”

As a kickoff returner, McKnight leads the NFL by far with a 36.1-yard average. The temptation to use him as a punt returner in Kerley’s absence is natural, in the hope that his explosive running style will easily translate in returning punts. Still, Westhoff said McKnight likely won’t get another chance to return a punt this season.

“Probably not,” said Westhoff. “Jimmy is more sure-handed and Cro [Antonio Cromartie] wants to do everything. I would have loved to give Joe a whole offseason of practice. It doesn’t mean he’s not adept at it. It’s just not a role I’m comfortable with him in the meantime. I want him to be a kick returner, not a punt returner.”

McKnight put another ball on the ground in last week’s loss to the Broncos. Special teams fumbles are especially deflating, but Westhoff still puts his total support behind the young returner. McKnight’s confidence has increased exponentially since his rookie year, and it is translating into a potential Pro Bowl season.

“He’s trying, he’s really trying. If you want to be a kick returner, this is a good place to show up. Our guys block and they block. He works hard in practice and he’s leading the league,” Westhoff said. “I’m disappointed, frankly, that he doesn’t have more touchdowns.”

On Wednesday, Westhoff said Kerley would have to prove on Friday that he would be “ready to go” to return punts on Sunday. Kerley did not practice Friday, and his availability won’t be known until just before kickoff.

If there is no change in status between now and 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when the Jets’ inactives must be declared, Leonhard will return punts vs. the Bills. Still, Westhoff has seen head trainer John Mellody and his staff pull off miracles before, and he’s hopeful Kerley will be available.

“Jeremy is the guy we want,” he said.

*Special Teams Saturday                             

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Posted in Andrew LeRay | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “STS*: Kerley Injury, Turnovers Impact Returns”

  1. By wayne on Nov 26, 2011 | Reply

    Fans want utilize Joe Mck on every unit just because he’s done well on KO, but it’s not that simple….KO and PR are very different and anyone who says otherwise have never stood under that ball while people are barreling down on em…….Joe’s still developing and the more success he has the better he’ll be later….Best option is Leonhard. Turnovers are undoing what’s left of this season.

  2. By carl on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    McKnight has been great for us! Remain positive ! Go Jets!

  3. By dougmc on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    Too many good players…no way should we be 5-5…win 6 in a row and make the playoffs, already. Confidence Sanchez, you can do this. O-line and D-line need to bring it to another level.

  4. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    I don’t wanna get on Westy’s case too much, but I had a very bad feeling when McKnight came in to return that punt. I was thinking, “Shouldn’t the Jets just ask him to handle KO and easing in at RB rather than mixing it up this way?” But what the piece doesn’t mention is that after the game, Rex admitted that he agreed to put McKnight in on the punt ’cause “I had to find a way into the end zone.” Still another example of how things break down when you have an O that can’t average, say, a lousy 14 pts in the 1st half. And of how Rex asks everyone short of the ballboys to make up for Sanchez’s inability this yr to lead the O as well as a backup. Try telling me with a straight face you wouldn’t rather have Orton at QB for the rest of this yr.

  5. By GaryC on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    the two guys the jets let go, cotchery and smith made their special teams solid and you didn’t have to worry about the ball being put on the ground.another brilliant move.

  6. By wayne on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    Much props to Greene, a guy I haven’t been high on…..He showed serious heart in this game….Not coach Westhoff’s best year.

  7. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    Okay, NOW I’ll get on Westy’s case: Has the real Westhoff been kidnapped and some careless imposter put in his place? What could he possibly have been thinking putting Cro in on that punt today, the exact same move that he made with McKnight vs. DEN and which brought about the exact same result?! What the heck is he thinking, if he is indeed thinking? Can’t wait to get back to McKnight on KR, Kerley on PR, and none of these disastrous improvisations about returns at key pts in key games. Almost as upsetting as game commentators starting to say that “Sanchez consistently throws behind the receiver,” which some of us have been saying all year…

  8. By GaryC on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom, I guess it is harder to make decisions when you don’t have Brad Smith or Cotchery back there,again the jets sacrificed the solid players for the all flair guys and it is burning them.

  9. By Kevin65Fan on Nov 27, 2011 | Reply

    Tom…the play before Leonard \had put a hard hit on the receiver to break up the play and apparently had the wind knocked out of him…that is why Cro was back there. Yea, we have to get Kerley back and fast. Between him and Leonard they are the only ones that can “hold on” to punts.
    Good game…but just can’t see us winning out. Sure Sanchez had 4 td throws..but in between that time he was horrible. Greene ran great…but something is wrong with him…very slow in getting up at times…prob that turf toe thing still bothering him.

  10. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Nov 28, 2011 | Reply

    Yeah, Kevin, I read about Leonhard, so that makes sense. As someone says on the story ahead of this one, Cro really woulda been the goat if we’d lost this game.

  11. By davetharave on Nov 28, 2011 | Reply

    When a team is returning kicks that is an OFFENSIVE special-teams play and the JETS need to have OFFENSIVE team players returning kicks and punts. I don’t care if so-and-so has had acouple of good returns or they’re worried about fumbles, this has gone on long enough. Put OFFENSIVE players back to return kicks before we have a really big problem that costs us a game !

  12. By Kevin65Fan on Nov 28, 2011 | Reply

    Yeah, thats for sure Tom. He’s been a goat on a few games earlier but we somehow pulled out the win. One thing that is just crazy and I just can’tt read it anymore is Sanchez press conference. If I hear one more time that he has been saying for last 2 and a half years..”We see our mistakes in film…we will correct them and move on” in so many words. Its like every week. Well correct the darn things. He just sounds like a robot in answering questions.
    I just want to scream at the screen when reading this junk…LOL

  13. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Nov 28, 2011 | Reply

    That’s Sanchez’s protective armor, Kevin65. I was charmed by it at first, now I just wanna see his learning curve accelerate. Still baffled over Cook being released…

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