Every Thursday I’ll present an interesting (to me, anyway) stat, break it down, and try to provide some context heading into the game the following weekend.
The Jaguars’ special teams during training camp and the first half of the preseason were a nightmare. In order for them to get better, the Jaguars would have to upgrade the bottom third of their roster.
That’s exactly what general manager Dave Caldwell did. He made numerous signings and roster moves to make the fix -- notably adding Will Blackmon, J.T. Thomas, Winston Guy and Clay Harbor -- and now the Jaguars’ special teams are significantly better.
They’ve become so much better they rank in the top nine in 13 statistical categories, including leading the league in kickoff returns of 20 or more yards (27) and second in the league in kickoff returns of 40 or more yards (three). The kickoff coverage team has given up only nine kickoffs of 20 or more yards, which is fourth in the NFL. That’s significant, because they’ve given up the most points in the NFL and have had to cover a lot of kickoffs.
"Here it was the first preseason game, the second preseason game was like ‘What’s going on?’" coach Gus Bradley said. "But to bring guys in … and to form them into a unit that is producing at a high level is great. It’s a credit to Mal [special teams coordinator Mike Mallory]. We talked earlier that we were going to compete to help build the bottom part of our roster and that’s what we tried to do with a number of guys.
"I think it was all with the idea of can we through the waivers picking up guys, build it to where special teams is making progress?"
Individually, kickoff returner Jordan Todman is third in the AFC and fifth in the NFL with a 28.3 average and he’s fifth in the NFL with 17 returns of at least 20 yards. Punter Bryan Anger is ninth in the NFL in gross average (46.5), sixth in net average (41.5), and sixth in punts inside the 20 (21).
The special teams units are the only ones performing consistently well right now. The offense is still struggling to run the ball and the defense can’t seem to stop the pass. They’re last in the NFL in both categories.