The Jaguars have quietly put together a dominant special teams unit (on paper) - What does it mean for wins and losses?
The Jaguars have received a lot of praise from national media outlets following the free agent signings of AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Barry Church, but the work they are putting in to create a dominant special teams unit has gone somewhat unnoticed. And that shouldn't come as a surprise. While fans and media alike fail to account for special teams in most scenarios when analyzing a certain team, the Jaguars have made it a point of emphasis this offseason to improve on special teams and improve they have (on paper).
With the addition of special teams wizard Joe DeCamillis to the coaching staff the Jaguars clearly saw special teams as an area that needed vast improvement.
We'll start with the two key legs of the Jaguars 2017 special teams. The Jaguars will be returning both their kicker and their punter in 2017.
Jason Myers, the Jaguars place kicker, is entering his third season with the team and has been largely successful (excluding his 2015 extra point woes). Myers has made 53 of his 64 career field goal attempts for the Jaguars including seven made field goals from 50+ yards. After missing a demoralizing 7 extra point attempts in 2015 Myers turned things around and made 29 of 32 extra points in 2016. He's got a strong leg and appears to have his mind right heading into next season.
The Jaguars punter Brad Nortman will also be returning to Jacksonville for his second season with the Jaguars. Nortman joined the Jaguars last offseason after an impressive four year stint with the Panthers. In 2016 Nortman averaged an impressive 46 yards per punt and landed an eye popping 27 punts inside the opponents 20 yard line.
In addition to bringing back both their kicker and punter the Jaguars re-signed two of their top special teams gunners from the 2016 season. Both Peyton Thompson, who led the team in special teams tackles (9) last season, and Arrelious Benn, who was the highest graded special teams players for the Jaguars, will both be relied upon heavily in 2017.
And that's just the start.
Last Thursday the Jaguars signed Lerentee McCray who is a notable special teams standout. He spent last year in Buffalo, but has experience playing under Jaguars current special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Denver. McCray is widely viewed as a special teams ace.
Then over the weekend the Jaguars signed Audie Cole from Minnesota. Another special teams ace and back up linebacker Cole has registered 21 tackles on special teams in his career.
Today the team announced the signing of another heralded special teamer in former Colts linebacker Josh McNary. McNary was an undrafted free agent signee by the Colts in 2013. Last season he led the Colts in special teams tackles with nine.
And it can't be overstated the impact that Calais Campbell will have on special teams. He's blocked 6 field goals in his career and in 2016 with the Cardinals he logged 160 special teams snaps. While Campbell's biggest contribution will be as a leader and a force of nature on the defensive line, he provides a ton of value on special teams.
Now, all of this looks great. The Jaguars have a great punter, solid kicker with upside, several impressive gunners, and a couple of other special teams aces to boot.
The only thing missing is a special returner. Marqise Lee shows great explosiveness as a returner, but with his history of injury and his newly found offensive importance the Jaguars may not want to risk putting him back there. They could certainly use Corey Grant, whose kick return average is impressive, as a kick returner but he isn't really a punt returner due to his lack of change of direction and start and stop ability. Bryan Walters is serviceable as both a kick and punt returner, but lacks the explosiveness to have a true impact. So the Jaguars could certainly stand to allocate a draft pick to sure up their return units.
If this new look special teams unit performs to the level that each of these individuals has in the past then the Jaguars will be special teams dynamos in 2017. Instead of worrying every time the Jaguars special teams takes the field, this new look unit should get fans excited.
With great special teams comes victories. It's a third of the game whether folks want to admit or not and it's about time the Jaguars took some pride in making their special teams unit one of the best in football.
Remember, all of this looks good on paper but it means nothing until these new and returning pieces show what they can do as a unit on Sundays.
Stay tuned for more!
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