Rick Gosselin's 2018 NFL special-teams rankings

Jason Myers (2) photo courtesy of USA Today

The New York Jets were terrible this season … except on special teams.

The New York Jets fired head coach Todd Bowles after a 4-12 season. But they weren’t about to let one of his coaches out the door.

Two weeks after firing Bowles and two days after hiring Adam Gase to replace him, the Jets extended the contract of special-teams coach Brant Boyer. For good reason – as bad as the 4-12 Jets were this season on offense (29th in the NFL) and defense (25th), they were the polar opposite on special teams.

The Jets finished first in the NFL special-teams rankings compiled annually by Rick Gosselin for the last 39 years. The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 kicking-game categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. The Jets compiled 231 points to finish 11 ½ points better than the runnerup New Orleans Saints.

Keeping Boyer was as logical as it was wise. There is an obvious correlation between special-teams play and team success on Sundays. The top two seeds in the playoffs – New Orleans in the NFC and Kansas City in the AFC – finished second and third respectively in special teams. Six of the eight division champions finished in the Top 10 in special teams, including the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams at nine and the AFC champion New England Patriots at 10.

“I talk to my players about all three phases working together to win games,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Be a contributor. We have players on our team that are on the game-day roster because of their abilities to play on special teams. Field position is important in the NFL game. There’s no better way to secure field position than being able to play good special teams.”

The Jets were Boyer’s first full-time gig as a special-teams coach. He inherited the NFL’s 31st ranked special-teams unit when he arrived in 2016 and began a rapid ascent. His Jets finished 30th in special teams in 2016, 20th in 2017 and, finally, first this season. The Jets finished first in five categories and in the Top 5 in seven others. Two of Boyer's specialists, kicker Jason Myers and returner Andre Roberts, were voted to the Pro Bowl.

Sitting atop the annual special-teams rankings is a familiar spot for Boyer. In 1997, he recorded a franchise-record 25 tackles in the kicking game to help the Jacksonville Jaguars finish first in the NFL in special teams.​

Brant Boyer photo courtesy of USA Today

Boyer carved out a 10-year career in the NFL as a special-teams ace with the Dolphins, Jaguars and Browns. He was a special-teams captain for all three teams and left Jacksonville after six seasons with a then franchise-record 94 special-teams tackles. In five of his 10 seasons his team finished in the Top 10 in these rankings.

The 19-spot improvement by the Jets from a year ago represented one of the three largest jumps in this year’s rankings. The Arizona Cardinals climbed from 30th in 2017 to fifth in 2018 and the AFC South champion Houston Texans moved from 26th in 2017 to eighth in 2018.

The rise of the Texans was expected after hiring Brad Seely. He is one of only two special-teams coaches to finish first in these rankings three times and he did it with three different teams – Indianapolis in 1992, Cleveland in 2009 and San Francisco in 2011. He also won three Super Bowl rings as special-teams coach of the Patriots.

The Cardinals also fired their head coach Steve Wilks this month but new coach Kliff Kingsbury opted to retain special-teams coach Jeff Rodgers. Like Seely, Rodgers engineered the dramatic turnaround of Arizona’s special teams in his first season on the job.

The strength of the New Orleans special teams was their kickers, Will Lutz (placements) and Thomas Morstead (punts). The strength of the Kansas City special teams was their return game featuring Tyreek Hill and Tremon Smith.

Here’s a breakdown of the 22 categories:

2018 NFL SPECIAL TEAMS RANKINGS

1. NY Jets 231

2. New Orleans 243

3. Kansas City 248

4. Miami 296.5

5. Arizona 301

Baltimore 301

7. Jacksonville 301.5

8. Houston 307.5

9. LA Rams 315

10. Indianapolis 320.5

New England 320.5

12. Detroit 342

13. Minnesota 351.5

14. Philadelphia 358.5

15. NY Giants 361

16. Tennessee 365.5

17. Washington 367

18. Seattle 374

19. Oakland 375.5

Atlanta 375.5

21. SF 49ers 381.5

22. Cincinnati 386.5

23. Carolina 394.5

24. Denver 407.5

25. Pittsburgh 426

26. Chicago 442.5

27. Dallas 444

Tampa Bay 444

29. LA Chargers 446.5

30. Cleveland 458

31. Buffalo 458.5

32. Green Bay 470.5

KICKOFF RETURNS

1. Tennessee 32.0 yards

2. New England 27.0

3. NY Jets 26.9

4. SF 49ers 26.2

5. Cincinnati 24.9

Worst: Chicago 19.1 yards

PUNT RETURNS

1. NY Jets 13.0 yards

2. Chicago 12.5

3. Kansas City 11.9

4. Oakland 11.6

5. Baltimore 11.5

Worst: Denver 4.4 yards

KICKOFF COVERAGE

1. Jacksonville 17.8 yards

2. NY Giants 20.4

3. Houston 20.6

4. Denver 20.75

5. Pittsburgh 20.77

Worst: Tennessee 27.8 yards

PUNT COVERAGE

1. Indianapolis 4.4 yards

2. Jacksonville 4.9

3. New Orleans 5.0

4. Kansas City 5.7

5. Minnesota 6.1

Worst: Pittsburgh 14.4 yards

KICKOFF STARTING POINT

1. NY Jets 28.1-yard line

2. Tennessee 28.0

3. Cincinnati 26.7

Kansas City 26.7

5. New England 26.3

Worst: Chicago 23.4-yard line

OPPONENT STARTING POINT

1. Detroit 23.8-yard line

2. Houston 23.9

3. Arizona 24.3

Denver 24.3

5. Jacksonville 24.4

Worst: New England 27.1-yard line

PUNTING

1. Arizona 48.6

2. Philadelphia 48.1

3. Seattle 47.6

4. Baltimore 46.6

5. Tennessee 46.44

Worst: LA Chargers 42.6 yards

NET PUNTING

1. New Orleans 43.2

2. LA Rams 43.0

3. Indianapolis 42.7

4. Philadelphia 42.67

5. Arizona 42.63

Worst: LA Chargers 37.2 yards

INSIDE THE 20 PUNTS

1. Washington 41

2. Tennessee 39

3. Jacksonville 37

4. Houston 36

5. Miami 35

Worst: New Orleans & Tampa Bay with 15 apiece

OPPONENT PUNTING

1. New England 40.8 yards

2. Miami 42.290

3. Cincinnati 42.296

4. New Orleans 42.4

5. NY Jets 43.2

Worst: Jacksonville 48.0 Yards

OPPONENT NET PUNTING

1. Miami 36.6 yards

2. Kansas City 36.9

3. New England 37.2

4. Cincinnati 37.6

5. NY Jets 37.8

Worst: Tampa Bay 43.2 yards

FIELD GOALS

1. Houston 37

2. Baltimore 35

3. LA Rams 34

4. NY Jets 33

San Francisco 33

Worst: Arizona 12

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE

1. San Francisco 97.0 percent

2. NY Giants 96.9

3. Atlanta 96.1

4. New Orleans 93.3

5. NY Jets 91.6

Worst: Minnesota 68.7 percent

OPPONENT FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE

1. Detroit 67.8 percent

2. New Orleans 73.9

3. Green Bay 74.2

4. Miami 75.0

5. LA Chargers 76.6

Worst: Atlanta 100 percent

EXTRA POINT PERCENTAGE

2 teams tied at 100 percent: Denver, Detroit

3. New Orleans 98.1

4. New England 98.0

5. Baltimore 97.3

Minnesota 97.3

Worst: Cleveland 82.3 percent

POINTS SCORED

4 teams tied with 12 points apiece: Miami, New England, NY Jets, Tennessee

5. Jacksonville 8

LA Rams 8

Worst: 16 teams tied with 0 points scored: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington

POINTS ALLOWED

16 teams tied with 0 points allowed: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, LA Rams, New England, New Orleans, NY Jets, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

Worst: 5 teams allowed 12 points apiece: Chicago, Denver, Green Bay, LA Chargers, Seattle

BLOCKED KICKS

1. New England 5

2. Denver 4

Pittsburgh 4

NY Jets 4

5. LA Rams 3

Worst: 12 teams tied with 0 blocked kicks: Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago., Dallas, Detroit, LA Chargers, Minnesota, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington

OPPONENT BLOCKED KICKS

9 teams tied with 0 blocked kicks: Arizona, Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New England, NY Giants, NY Jets, Philadelphia

Worst: Cincinnati, Cleveland 4 apiece

TAKEAWAYS

1. Houston 3

2. Jacksonville 2

Miami 2

Seattle 2

Tampa Bay 2

Worst: 11 teams tied with 0: Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, New England, New Orleans, NY Giants, Oakland, San Francisco, Tennessee

GIVEAWAYS

14 teams tied with 0 giveaways: Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami. Minnesota, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, TampaBay, Washington

Worst: Green Bay 5

PENALTIES

1. Minnesota 8 penalties, 60 yards

2. Tennessee 8, 68

3. Seattle 11, 97

4. Miami 11, 106

5. Atlanta 11, 119

Worst: Pittsburgh 27 penalties, 257 yards

<

Comments