FO Mailbag: Jets Special Teams
Kman7366 (over Twitter): How can the Jets ST DVOA be so good? They lead the league in ST turnovers. Does FO not count fumbles? Does FO treat fumbles differently?
Yes, so, the FO special teams ratings currently have the Jets fifth. It's one of the reasons we have the Jets ranked higher than pretty much anyone else. And yes, the Jets lead the league in special teams turnovers. So what's the explanation?
It's twofold. First, there are more categories of special teams than just returns. The Jets have been excellent on both kickoffs (third) and punts (sixth) this year.
Second, just like we do with offense and defense, the FO special teams stats count all fumbles equal. And the Jets have had miserable luck recovering special teams fumbles this year.
There are two kinds of special teams fumbles: regular fumbles and muffs. We count these differently because muffed punts (and the rarer muffed kickoffs) are recovered by the return team much more often than fumbles that take place after the return has actually started. Except, apparently, by the 2011 Jets.
The Jets have four muffed punts. The opposition has recovered three of them. The rest of the league has 37 muffed punts, and the opposition has recovered only six of them.
On kickoffs, only one muffed kickoff has been recovered by the opposition this year. That muffed kickoff was by the Jets. In general, half of all fumbled kick returns are recovered by the opposition. The Jets lost both their fumbles.
So in general, we're penalizing the Jets for these muffs and fumbles much less than they're actually hurting the Jets on the field. The punt returns are still lousy. The Jets are averaging 8.3 yards per punt return, 24th in the NFL. Add in the fumbles (including two fumbles the Jets have recovered themselves) and they rank dead last in our punt return metric. But the kick returns are fine. The Jets are averaging 26.8 yards per kick return, fifth in the NFL. Because of the specifics of how long certain kick returns have gone, they rank second in our kick return metric.
Anyway, add this together with the fact that they're average on field goals, and the Jets have one of the better special teams units in the league despite all the fumbles. You simply can't expect this many fumbles to be recovered by the opposition going forward, which means eventually the good returns (at least, the good kick returns) should be more apparent and should result in better field position.