The Jets don’t give out a game ball when they don’t win, but if the coaching staff did hand one out following Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Lions, Ryan Quigley likely would have gotten it.
Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt. For a punter who averaged 45.5 yards per punt last year and a net average of 38.9 yards, he has shown a stronger leg this season.
The Jets are a directional punting team, meaning they favor pinning a punt returner along the sideline and would rather their punter get hang time over sheer distance. That Quigley has increased his average more than two yards per punt this year and over four net yards per punt this year is a testament to his growth.
“A lot depends on the day, [and] how I’m feeling,” Quigley told Metro. “We are a directional punting group, but just the way I’m feeling right now, I’m feeling strong and confident. Days like [Sunday] when you’ve got mid-80s temperatures, you have to take advantage of. But we’re still a directional punting team.”
The Jets punter said he felt like he “hit the ball pretty well.” It was perhaps an understatement, as Sunday represented the best yardage per punt game of his career and his 61-yard punt was the second longest he’s ever kicked.
Quigley won the starting job last year over veteran T.J. Conley in large part because of his directional kicking. Conley was a great teammate but the coaching staff was looking for someone a bit more directional in their kicks. Quigley fit the mold perfectly and while his rookie year had some struggles, his directional kicks were solid.
But there was a myth that he didn’t have a strong leg, something he is disproving this year.
He said he lifted and got stronger this offseason but he doesn’t credit that for his yardage gains over last year. Quigley said he has the freedom to put some more distance into his punts because of the personnel the Jets have in place on their coverage team. Players such as Saalim Hakim, one of the fastest in the NFL, gives the Jets’ special teams an edge.
If Quigley can get enough air time, then chances are Hakim’s world-class speed will get down the field fast enough to neutralize any advantage for the opposition.
The Jets gave up an average return of 11.2 yards last year. This year, the number is down to a more respectable 7.8 yards per punt and their seven fair catches is tied for second-best in the league.
“With the gunners we have, I can do that more,” Quigley said. “We’ve got great gunners out there and they make sure there is no return. I can hit the ball now and let it go a little bit. I’ve got confidence in the guys that they can get down there and get a fair catch. For me, I just need to hang the ball up. If I can do that, then I know we’ve got the guys to get down there. Nothing has changed this offseason; punting is all about the net. Whatever I can do to get that up there, that’s fine.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.