Jaguars hope Joe DeCamillis can spark special teams turnaround

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There are numerous ways to evaluate special teams play in the NFL.

Average opponent field position, net punt yards, return averages and blocked kicks, for example.

The units also can be evaluated by the number of mistakes they make, and unfortunately for the Jacksonville Jaguars, this is where their special teams units have stood out during the last several seasons.

It was particularly bad in 2016, which is partly why new executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and new head coach Doug Marrone did not retain special teams coordinator Mike Mallory. They hired Joe DeCamillis, who is regarded as one of the better special teams coaches in the league, over the weekend.

He does have a lot of work ahead of him: The Jaguars made critical mistakes on special teams that either resulted in points or cost points in 10 of the last 11 games of the season. Since the Jaguars went 1-10 in that stretch and lost six games by a touchdown or less, the special teams were just as much to blame as quarterback Blake Bortles' struggles and the fact that the defense forced just eight turnovers in that stretch.

And the breakdowns were everywhere:

Oakland (Oct. 23): Rashad Greene had a punt bounce off his thigh. The Raiders recovered at the Jacksonville 17-yard line and eventually kicked a field goal.

Tennessee (Oct. 27): Marqise Lee dropped a punt and the Titans recovered at the Jaguars 35 and went on to kick a field goal.

Kansas City (Nov. 6): Bryan Walters fumbled a punt return and the Chiefs recovered at the Jaguars 23. Two plays later, they scored a touchdown.

Houston (Nov. 13): Gave up a 57-yard punt return to the Jacksonville 7. Texans scored a TD on the next play.

Detroit (Nov. 20): Andre Roberts returns a punt 55 yards for a touchdown. Jaguars claim Roberts signaled fair catch but ran with the ball anyway. Privately, Jaguars said NFL agreed and that officials blew the call. Still, Myles Jack was in position to make a tackle for minimal gain and missed.

Buffalo (Nov. 27): Greene muffed two punts. The team also gave up a 43-yard punt return to Brandon Tate to the Jacksonville 22. Bills turned it into a TD. Just before Tate’s return, the Jaguars had punted but there was a running into the kicker penalty on Buffalo. Jags elected to punt again. Jack also was penalized twice for illegal formation on punt coverage.

Denver (Dec. 4): Alex Ellis got an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting punt returner Kalif Raymond out of bounds. That gave the Broncos the ball at the Jacksonville 43 and they kicked a field goal four plays later.

Minnesota (Dec. 11): Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 53 yards to set up a field goal. Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed two field goals (a 61-yard attempt was blocked) and was penalized for delay of game (the coaches took the blame for that penalty).

Houston (Dec. 18): A big-time positive for the Jaguars here -- and boy did they need one -- was Lee’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Tennessee (Dec. 24): Myers missed two extra points.

Indianapolis (Jan. 1): Myers missed two field goals, including a 30-yarder. Four of his seven missed field goal attempts came in the final four games.

One thing those inside the Jaguars building said was to blame for a lot of the special teams struggles was the quality of the bottom of the roster. That’s generally where most of the special teams players come from -- the fifth linebacker, the sixth defensive back, for example -- and this year’s group wasn’t as strong as it was in 2015.

There are always going to be mistakes on the field. When they consistently happen and cost teams points or lead to opponents' points, however, things have to change. The Jaguars have chosen DeCamillis as the first step.