I’ve always had an affinity for special teams play; maybe it’s my British nature having an interest in anything that involves kicking a ball with your foot. A long time ago I wrote a piece about Pat Leahy and a few weeks later received a message from a family member just thanking me for bringing attention to the best Jets kicker in franchise history.

Pat still holds the franchise all-time scoring record with 1,470 points; Nick Folk is second with 729 which shows just how good and how consistent Leahy was.

Over the last few years, the Jets have struggled to find consistency in their special teams unit, despite finding consistency within their coaching setup with Brant Boyer having been with the team since 2016. It’s a testament to Boyer’s talent that he’s remained with the Jets despite a number of head coaching changes.

Here’s how the Jets have ranked in terms of special teams DVOA since Brant Boyer took charge all the way back in 2016:

2016: 32nd

2017: 25th

2018: 1st

2019: 4th

2020: 29th

2021: 2nd

2022: 26th

2023: 1st

“DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) calculates a team’s success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.”

If the Jets can maintain the early-season form throughout the rest of the season, it would represent the 4th time that Brant Boyer has put together a top-5 special teams unit since 2016. It’s not just DVOA either, in terms of EPA (Expected Points Added), the Jets also rank #1.

Thomas Morstead was arguably the Jets MVP during their win against the Giants on Sunday. It was the first time that Morstead had downed 3 punts inside the 5-yard line in the same game. He’s also the first Jets’ punter to ever do it, and just the 15th punter to do it since 1970. What was the secret to that success? Well, according to Morstead: “Sometimes you gotta talk a little dirty to the ball and just tell it what to do.. and it listened.”.

We probably don’t talk about special teams as much as we should. It usually only becomes a real topic when you have a poor unit. A unit costing you territory, points and opportunities. The Jets are the polar opposite.

Consider some of these stats. The Jets rank inside the top-five in the NFL in terms of field goal conversion percentage (94.44%), inside the top-10 for net yards per punt (44.0), inside the top-10 for punts downed inside the 20 (18), we’ve not had a single kick or punt blocked and we’re one of only three teams who have returned a punt for a touchdown.

There is a level of consistency this year where you feel as though the special teams are a huge strength of the team. At no point did I feel as though Morstead was going to shank a punt in the rain, at no point did I fear that Greg Zuerlein would miss the FG to send us to overtime or to win us the game. It’s a feeling that a lot of teams don’t enjoy; we do.

The Jets have worked through eight kickers since losing All-Pro Jason Myers to free-agency in 2018, and 2023 represented the first time the Jets had started the season with the same kicker in back-to-back seasons for 7 years in the form of Zuerlein. If consistency is key, the Jets have unlocked this unit’s potential.

Outside of our own kicking game, the coverage unit on special teams has been phenomenal. Whether that’s special teams captain Justin Hardee, safety Ashtyn Davis, linebackers Jamien Sherwood, Chazz Surratt, Sam Eguavoen or wide receiver Irvin Charles…the Jets have a number of people they can call on to help the defence by pinning the opponent deep.

In terms of their punt coverage, the Jets have the #1 ranked unit in football allowing the opponent an average of 39.1 net yards per punt attempt. We also have the #3 ranked unit in terms of opponent field goal success rate not including blocks (76.19%), and all you need to do is look at Will McDonald’s effort against the Giants and Graham Gano on the 4th quarter missed field goal to see why.

Morstead appeared on the Pat McAfee show this week to talk about this performance against the Giants, and after speaking about and praising the performance of the defence, he was able to take time to give the special teams unit a much deserved pat on the back…

“I can say we’ve had a hand in all four of our wins this year, not only on the punt team. Special teams have been awesome. Greg Zuerlein has been balling as well. We just have a crew of guys that believe that, and we are doing it week in and week out. It’s exciting to be a part of.”

Long may it continue.