After spending the last couple of weeks ranking the offenses and defenses in the AFC East, we are moving on to the third phase of the game, special teams. We will be taking into account everything involving special teams. Those factors include kickoffs, punting, field goals, and even specific players who make an impact on special teams.
The Patriots have the best kicker in the division, and possibly one of the best kickers in the league, in Stephen Gostkowski. Last season, he connected on 37 of his 40 field goals and only missed 2 extra points. Gostkowski was also second in the league with 156 total points. In the punting game, the team allowed the third fewest returning yards, which can be credited in part to Matthew Slater, who has become a premier special teams ace since his time in the league.
The Bills come in second place because of the stiff competition in the division, but they are talented and consistent in this phase of the game. Stephen Hauschka was fantastic in his first year in Buffalo, making 29-of-33 field goals on the season. He tied for the NFL lead with 7 field goals over 50 yards. He was also the first kicker in Bills’ history to make two field goals of 53 or more yards in a game. In the punting game with Colton Schmidt, the team ranked in the middle of the pack in return yards allowed, but was just outside the top 10 for net yards off punts.
Miami had the second-best special teams staff based on statistics in 2017, but roster turnover costs them the number two ranking heading into the 2018 season. The Dolphins’ kickoff team allowed the league’s lowest average starting field position last season, forcing teams to start at around the 21 yard line. Miami also has Michael Thomas, who was selected as Pro Football Focus’ special teams player of the year with 10 solo tackles and no missed tackles during the 2017 season. Kicker Cody Parkey converted on just over 91 percent of his kicks on the season, but he has since moved on to Chicago, signing a four-year free agent deal with the Bears this offseason. Rookies Greg Joseph and Jason Sanders will compete to fill Parkey’s shoes this fall.
Unfortunately, the Jets come in last on this countdown. Their kicker last year, Chandler Catanzaro, converted only 83 percent of his kicks, but he did make all of his extra points that he attempted. However, he is no longer with the team, so the Jets are holding a kicking competition in camp between veteran Cairso Santos and rookie Taylor Bertolet. The Jets were in the lower half of the league in net punting yards and allowed the fourth-most return yards in the league. Their bright spot on special teams is Rontez Miles, who led the league with 15 solo special teams tackles.