On Saturday night, the Jets are hoping to have return yards against them.
No, that’s not a misprint. The Jets’ special teams coaching staff wants their kickers to boot the ball shorter.
In the season-opening preseason game, the Lions didn’t have a single kickoff return against the Jets. The Jets had eight kickoffs but only had four returns in the win last weekend over Jacksonville. Even more remarkable, the first-team kickoff unit hasn’t had a single return against them yet this preseason. That’s good news for the Jets in that they are limiting return yards and minimizing the chance for big plays. But it is unreasonable to think their kickers will be able to keep up this pace throughout the season.
So the kickers will be asked to kick the ball shorter so the coaching staff can evaluate the talent on the unit.
“By design, they want those guys to cover and they told us to put it at the goal line, with hang time in the direction we’re trying to go,” kicker Nick Folk said. “It’s for them to get used to covering, because our ones (starters) haven’t had any returns. They want them to get some reps, some game-speed stuff. You don’t want them lulled to sleep.
“They want to evaluate those guys on film. It’s hard to simulate that [in practice] because you don’t want to go ones versus ones here, so you want to do it in a game.”
Rather than a typical 10-yard kickoff approach, both Folk and fellow kicker Billy Cundiff will shorten their approach to five yards. Nothing about the kicking form is different; it is just backing off the distance.
Folk has been practicing the approach this week to make sure that on Saturday night against the Giants, there will be return yards against the unit.
“You’re kind of pulling out a 5-iron instead of a driver if you want to call it that,” Folk said. “You’re just not bringing the speed into it as much. For me, I’m not bringing in the same speed I would when I’m back for my normal approach. I am slowed so I don’t have the same speed and the ball isn’t going to go as far. It’s pretty much the same kick, just a shorter approach.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.