Field position is always so important on special teams, and Josh Baker contributed two chunks of yards to the Jets’ FP in Sunday’s conquest of the Redskins.
“What was that, my second kickoff return?” Baker asked me about his 29-yard runback to set the table around midfield for the first of the Jets’ three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. “I’m no longer a rookie. I’m a vet.”
Actually, it was his third. Baker, the undrafted free agent TE, has now touched the ball four times as a pro and positive yardage has always happened. Three of the touches have been kickoff returns. He took a pop-fly kickoff from the Dolphins 16 yards to the Jets 34 in his first appearance in the green and white. Two weeks later he ran a short kick by the Patriots 15 yards, also to the Jets 34.
Having gotten his feet wet, he was ready to put his stamp on the contest at FedEx.
“Going into the game, if they’ve shown that they’ve popped it up before, even one time throughout the season, then it’s brought to our attention and we will practice it,” Baker said. “There’ll be a rep or two just because we know they’ve done it before, and I believe the Redskins had done it before.”
Having just taken their last lead at 16-13, the ‘Skins were playing it safe, or so they thought, in keeping it away from Antonio Cromartie, who had dropped into the end zone in place of the sore-elbowed Joe McKnight for Graham Gano’s kick. The ball flew high and short to the Jets 20, where Shake-’n'-Bake was waiting for it.
“I think when you have a weapon like Joe McKnight or Cro back there deep, it does make teams think about doing different things,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “And obviously with Baker, if you kick it to the 20, we’re in business. Mike Westhoff and I had a plan, anticipating something like this, and when it happens, you have to make it happen and that’s exactly what Baker did.”
The only thing Baker didn’t make happen was a missed tackle by the kicker. Gano took him down by the Redskins bench at the Jets 49.
“I just saw the hole and hit it. I wish I’d have made a move on the kicker. It was near the sideline but I’ve got to make him miss.”
Did he get grief from his teammates over that tackle?
“Not as much as from my parents. My dad, I got a few comments from him. He’s my No. 1 hater,” Baker said, assuring that his father, Kevin, gave him the business in a loving way.
Above, we said Baker provided two chunks of yardage. The first one most people probably never saw because CBS’ long camera shot of T.J. Conley’s second-quarter punt swung immediately away from the line of scrimmage to Brandon Banks’ fair catch didn’t stay at the line of scrimmage. But you can see a quick view of the Jets’ right wingman on the punt protect team for some reason being thrown to the ground by Washington third-year LB Rob Jackson, in plain view of ref John Parry’s crew.
That wingman was Baker. Instead of the Redskins getting field position similar to the spot that Baker gave the Jets two quarters later, at their 49, they started at their 39.
Who’s to say if that was a big reason for the ‘Skins moving 8 yards and then punting, and then the Jets moving 57 yards to Nick Folk’s first field goal? But every yard helps.
And perhaps the Jets are forcing Sunday’s foe, the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium, to pick their poison. Last week Ryan Succop and the Chiefs faced Devin Hester and the Bears. On their two kickoffs in their 10-3 win, the Chiefs gave up a return to the CHI-34 and had a kickoff out of bounds.
If Baker is called on to provide a similar short field this week, he’s veteran-ready.
*Special Teams Saturday.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, joe McKnight, Josh Baker, Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Ryan Succop, Washingon Redskins
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