In the latest round of OTA interviews, the media spoke with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, one of the few New York Jets’ coaches that was here under Adam Gase.
Besides the unimpressive kicking battle in Florham Park (more on that tomorrow), one remark from Boyer really stood out in his press conference. This probably won’t surprise you, but it involved praising rookie wide receiver, Elijah Moore.
Saleh even touched on Moore’s fast start at the pro-level this morning (June 10, 2021), commenting that he’s tough to guard because he can “line up at Z, F or X.” The head coach attributed that versatility to his work ethic and mindset, grading both as “off the charts.”
If it wasn’t enough that Moore has been the most explosive offensive player on the field in camp so far, he’s turning heads in the special teams’ room as well.
Boyer Touts Rookie Work Ethic
Two of the most-anticipated rookies for the Jets in 2021 are the aforementioned Moore and running back Michael Carter. Both of the offensive weapons are hoping to make an impact in as many areas as possible, as they have also been featured in the return game.
The Jets beat reporters asked Boyer about Moore’s ability as a returner in particular and the special teams’ coach had a lot of good things to say: “He’s got a heck of a skillset… he has fantastic hands, he’s got everything that you’re looking for with quickness and the dynamic short-area burst and everything like that. His [ball] tracking just needs a little clean-up but I think he’s going to be a very very very good player in this league.”
Boyer even went one step further in his admiration, stating: “I think the kid’s got a bright future. He’s a self-starter, he’s a worker. There’s two of them in here at 6:30 in the morning on their own, working by themselves. I think it’s fantastic that they’re doing that. Young kids that get how this business works.”
He elaborated that the other rookie was Carter and that the two players just come in to get “extra work” without anyone asking them to. Boyer commended their professionalism, preparation and conditioning in this regard, adding that he “expects very good things out of these two.”
Wide receivers Braxton Berrios and Keelan Cole are probably the greatest competition for the rookies in terms of returning punts. Berrios returned every punt for the Jets in 2020, although the kick return battle is wide open for anyone to claim.
Corey Ballentine led the roster with 12 kick returns a season ago, followed by Berrios and Josh Malone. Ty Johnson also received five opportunities, but nobody matched Ballentine’s yards per attempt of 26.2 yards per return.
New Leaders in Special Teams’ Room
Another special teams contributor has Boyer “ecstatic” in camp, but this one has been doing it a while. This offseason, Joe Douglas poached defensive back Justin Hardee from the New Orleans Saints for his talents as a gunner.
This was a problem area for the Jets in 2020, as Boyer noted that he tried out 13 different gunners in games last season. Not only does Hardee lock up one of the two gunner jobs immediately, but he also brings leadership to the room.
With a massive roster overhaul underway in 2021, Boyer acknowledged the value of a veteran like Hardee, saying it was the “biggest thing they needed.”
Another role model of Boyer’s department is second-year punter Braden Mann. The coordinator admitted that his expectations for the punter are high, which is comforting knowing that Douglas spent a sixth-round pick on the phenom in 2020.
Boyer called Mann a “worker,” saying he’s the type of player that will do “anything you ask him to do.” He finished by stating that “in practice [Mann] has looked really good so far.”
These may not be the most flashy positions, but championship teams have great kickers, punters and special teamers. The Jets must improve in these areas if they want to win consistently, and Mann and Hardee are a nice start.
Newcomers on Special Teams Include Free-Agent Signing
With a lot of his core guys departing in free agency, Boyer talked about the changing of the guard at special teams. He pointed out the speed and length of some of the Jets’ new rookies as a strength but countered that their experience could use some work.
Douglas did make one addition today that should immediately help in this regard, signing former Atlanta Falcons safety Sharrod Neasman.
The safety actually led the Falcons in special teams snaps the past two seasons, which should aid Boyer in his efforts to whip this young ST group into shape.