Monday, December 5, 2011

Short kickoffs not slowing down Jets' return team

By Nick St. Denis

The New York Jets are fine with any kind of kickoff.

New York's last few opponents have been kicking short to the Jets' return team to prevent Joe McKnight, who leads the NFL in return average, from taking one back on them.

"I think when you have a weapon like Joe McKnight or Cro [Antonio Cromartie] back there deep, it does make teams think about doing different things," Jets coach Rex Ryan told the New York media Monday via conference call.

Sunday, the Washington Redskins were kicking short to the Jets, though it didn't do much good. Tight end Josh Baker, who was playing at the up-back position, caught one of the kicks on the 20-yard line and ran it 29 yards to set up the Jets with a scoring drive.

"I know Josh was upset with himself because the kicker made the tackle on him, but I loved the way he took it. I mean, he went full speed ahead and had a great run back," Ryan said. "And clearly that was a huge, huge play for us because it set us up in great field position right at the 50-yard line and a couple first downs, we had a big pass to Santonio [Holmes] afterwards. So it looks good on paper sometimes. If you don’t kick it deep to us, and you choose to kick the ball short, we have guys that can return it.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said the short kick was mistake, though the repeated short kicks by opponents to the Jets would hint otherwise. Either way, Ryan was happy with how special teams coach Mike Westhoff has had his return team prepared.

"Obviously Joe wants the ball in his hands and so does Cromartie, but if you want to kick it that way, we just want field position," Ryan said. "The fact that Josh was able to give us a 30-yard return and you kick it to the 20, we’ll take that every day of the week.

"But I think when you have your guy that is basically maybe heading to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, then you’ll look at things on how you can prevent him from getting the ball. But that’s fine, we’re OK. Wherever you kick it, we feel pretty good about our kickoff return."

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