Joe McKnight revealed a great attitude about his role, his playing time and his pro career this season, and the NFL’s leading kickoff returner is taking that with him into this postseason, during which he’s hoping to play in one more game.
“I’m going to be in New Jersey now and I’m going to still work out,” McKnight said Monday as he and his teammates were packing up and moving out after the end of their season the day before. “I’m the first alternate to the Pro Bowl and I want to be ready in case they call me to play in the game.”
McKnight was the fans’ choice for the AFC’s kick returner in the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, but that accounts for only 33 percent of the all-star voting. When the players’ and coaches’ votes were factored in, McKnight came up No. 2 behind the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, the Steelers’ regular kickoff and punt man.
Still, Joe’s showing in his first year as the Jets’ kickoff returner was sparkling. On his 34 returns, he averaged 31.6 yards, almost a full four yards better than the No. 2 man, Packers rookie Randall Cobb.
In fact, McKnight’s 31.6 is the most by a qualifying returner in the NFL in a long time. Ron Brown packed a 32.8 with three TDs for the 1985 Rams. And McKnight also becomes the fourth Jet to lead the league in KOR average, along with Justin Miller (28.3 in 2006), Ron Carpenter (27.7 in ’95) and Bobby Humphery (30.7 in ’84).
McKnight didn’t finish as strongly as he wanted. Problem No. 1 was that his fast start — returns of 50, a franchise-long 107 and 88 during that three-loss road trip in September-October — alerted opposing cover teams to his prowess.
Then came a series of physical mishaps — a dislocated finger, a knee, a toe, an elbow at Washington and a shoulder at Philadelphia. Mixed in among that were the muffed punt against New England and the fumbled kickoff at Denver.
“I think I left a couple of yards on the field,” he evaluated himself. “I got a little heavy this year, put too much weight on. I want to make sure I say in tune with everything, running, catching. I muffed a few kicks and I want to work on that. I feel like I can do more.”
He said he’s continuing treatments for his elbow and shoulder but that he won’t need any procedures done.
McKnight said he’d hate to lose one of his guiding lights on this Jets team if LaDainian Tomlinson moves on to another team or into his post-football career.
“I would love to see LT the rest of my years playing football,” he said. “I’m always going to be talking to him, keeping in contact with him. He’s basically been my mentor since I’ve been here.
“But I know this is a business. If LT’s not back, I’m the next one in line. Ad if he is, I’ve still got to do my job.”
Kerley’s Big Game
Jeremy Kerley’s 41-yard bull’s-eye completion to Matt Mulligan out of the Wildcat//Seminole/Mizzou/Texas formation in the first quarter of the Miami game was the second-longest by a non-quarterback in Jets franchise history.
The longest came in the 2009 AFC Championship Game in Lucas Oil Stadium when Brad Smith came onto the field, Mark Sanchez went off for just that play, and Smith, out of the shotgun, cranked up his 45-yard completion to Jerricho Cotchery against the Colts.
Smith that year, like Kerley this year, was listed by the Jets as a wide receiver. One could argue that Smith was more QB than WR from his four years under center at Missouri, but on the other hand, even though he got a good amount of exposure as the quarterback running the ‘Cat, I remember only one game where he got more than two plays in a row as “the man,” in the slushbowl game at New England in 2007. And that was only for a couple of series.
One thing is certain: Kerley, in the final game of his rookie season, turned in one of the most versatile performances by a Jet, along the lines of Smith and Leon Washington. Kerley had a 16-yard run, 71 yards on four receptions, the 41-yard completion and 26 yards on two punt returns. That’s 154 yards of offensive plus return yardage (it’s more than all-purpose yardage, which doesn’t include passing yardage, and more than total offense, which includes passing yardage but not returns).
The 154 yards are the most ever in a game by a player with at least one rush, reception, completion and punt return in Jets franchise history.
Tags: Brad Smith, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Leon Washington, Miami Dolphins
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