When a team is scuffling, and especially when a team is scuffling without one of its main men, it will take everyone on the roster to get the job done and keep the wins coming.
Such as Sunday at Miami, when the Jets’ kickoff and punt coverage teams put together one of the finest field position games in recent team history.
“Eight times we had our opponents inside the 20, and five times inside the 10 — that’s a lot,” special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff told newyorkjets.com today. “They’re off to a solid start. We can cover.”
Eleven of Miami’s 13 possessions began after a Jets punt or kickoff, and the Dolphins’ average start on those drives was their 14.5-yard line. Add in the possessions after their two interceptions and for the game the ‘Fins’ average drive start was their 17.8-yard line.
That’s the Jets’ best opponents’ drive start in the last 22 seasons. The only better game since 1990 was their 17-12 victory over Houston in the Astrodome in ’90, a game that featured a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ken O’Brien to Al Toon and the only individual “trifecta” fumble-recovery touchdown by a front-seven player in franchise history when rookie DT Darrell Davis sacked Warren Moon, forced the fumble and recovered it in the end zone. The Oilers’ drive start was their 17.0.
On Sunday the Jets needed every spare yard since Miami mounted six marches of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns and four for field goal attempts.
“Field position, to me, I look at last year, when we finished first in kickoff returns and I think we were sixth in [kickoff] coverage. That adds up to seven and I think that led the league,” Westhoff said. “It was pretty close between us and San Francisco but they had 40 touchbacks and we had 12. We had to cover a heck of a lot more, yet we were still first. I’ve been able to do that a lot of times.”
Unlike opening day, when Nick Folk had six touchbacks, he had only one at Sun Life Stadium. But Folk did put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone. Then Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Josh Bush and Joe McKnight made tackles, and the kick coverage also forced a pair of illegal blocks.
Then there was Robert Malone, who had his best day yet as the Jets’ punter. He hit six punts to the tune of a 45.7-yard gross — very good — and a 42.5 net — excellent. His four inside-the-20 punts is tied for fifth-most in a game by a Jet since 1991. No Jets qualifying punter has ever finished a season with a 40-yard net average, and Malone’s got 13 games to go, but his net after three games is at 40.0.
On punt coverage, Bellore had another tackle, as did Isaiah Trufant and rookie Demario Davis. “Zaiah” also downed a Malone punt at the Miami 5, the Dolphins’ fair-caught two others, and yet another illegal block was flagged against Miami.
“I think Malone’s off to a good start. He’s got a big, powerful leg that I like, and a very powerful, explosive lower body,” Westhoff said. “Now we just have to keep working with him on his timing and technique and all those little things. But he can bomb the ball. He’s done a real good job.”
As head coach Rex Ryan said Monday following his announcement of the severity of Darrelle Revis’ knee injury, “It’s going to take everybody we have, pulling together like we are and just keep competing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
And everybody includes the hidden-yardage crew, not just the kickers and their coverage teams but the return teams led by McKnight and Jeremy Kerley, and the offense and the defense turning very good field position into great position if not points.
The numbers show how important that can be. In the eight games since ’90 that the Jets have held opponents to lower than an average drive start of less than their 20.0, their record is 7-1. And in the 60 games that opponents’ drive start has been lower than 25.0, the Jets’ record is 48-12 (.800). Field position is one major area in which the Jets can help optimize their opportunities in the wake of having to spend the rest of their season on Reeve-Less Island.
Tags: Al Toon, Astrodome, Darrell Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Ken O'Brien, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
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