Jets lean on Holmes, Cotchery to return punts

There were few bright spots for special teams coach Mike Westhoff in the Jets’ 45-3 loss to the Patriots.

Steve Weatherford shanked a 13-yard punt in the first quarter. Nick Folk missed a 53-yard field goal. Brad Smith was whistled for a block in the back.

But there was one reason for Westhoff to be optimistic: the team’s new punt-returner unit.

With Jim Leonhard out for the season, Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery will form the two-deep punt return unit for the Jets. Cotchery said on Thursday that Holmes would return the majority of the punts.

Holmes returned one punt for eight yards against the Patriots. In the second quarter, Holmes returned a punt 31 yards that was called back because of a Brad Smith block in the back.

“Santonio is really back into it. He wants to be a viable part,” Westhoff said. “I liked what we saw, it was explosive.”

In 2006 and 2008, Holmes returned a total of 60 punts for an average of 8.2 yards per return for the Steelers.

“I’ve been doing it for the past (sic) five years and hopefully it continues with a big play here and there,” Holmes said.

Cotchery returned punts for the Jets in 2005 and 2009. He returned 46 punts for an average of 9.1 yards per return.

If Holmes and Cotchery are unavailable, Joe McKnight and Kyle Wilson will be called into duty.

When Leonard went down with a broken right tibia last Thurday, he ranked sixth in the league with 238 total yards.

“We’re trying to generate offense with those two guys back there,” Rex Ryansaid. “Jerricho did a great back job back that year for us. The one thing is, I always said Jim Leonhard would catch it in a hurricane. Jerricho will catch it in a tornado, so we feel pretty good about him being back there.”