NFL coaches will tell you special teams are a third of the game.
If that’s the case, why aren’t special teams given a third of the spots on the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams? So let’s shed a little more light on some outstanding performers – and performances – in the kicking game in 2018. Here’s the Talk of Fame Network’s 2018 all-pro special-teams unit:
Kicker: Jason Myers, NY Jets. With a rookie quarterback, points figured to be scarce for the Jets in 2018. They wound up 23rd in the NFL in scoring with an average of 20.8 points per game. So when the Jets sent Myers out for placements, he needed him to return with points. And he did. Myers produced 129 points to finish seventh in the NFL in scoring. And his degree of difficulty was off the charts. Myers kicked an NFL record five field goals from 55 yards and beyond.
Punter: Tress Way, Washington. Way led the NFL with 41 inside-the-20 punts this season. Even more impressive, he led the league with zero touchbacks. So his punts were always flirting with the end zone but never bouncing in. He punted 79 times for a net average of 41.5 yards. That put him in the league’s Top 10. He also finished third in the NFL with 26 fair catches of his punts.
Kick returner: Andre Roberts, NY Jets. Roberts was one of only two NFL players to return two kicks for touchdowns this season, one on a punt and the other on a kickoff. He ran his kickoff back 99 yards against the Packers and his punt 78 yards against the Lions. He averaged 29.4 yards on his 40 kickoff returns and 14.1 yards on his 23 punt returns.
Punt returner: Jakeem Grant, Miami. Grant was the other player to return two kicks for a scores, also one on a punt and the other on a kickoff. He returned his kickoff a league-best 102 yards for a touchdown against the Titans and his punt 70 yards for a TD against the Bengals. He averaged 16.3 yards on his 14 punt returns and 29.7 yards on his 18 kickoff returns.
Coverage ace: Lerentee McCray, Jacksonville. The Jaguars fielded the best kick coverage units in the NFL this season and McCray was their special teams ace. The Jaguars finished first in kickoff coverage, allowing only 17.8 yards, and second in punt coverage, allowing just 4.9 yards. McCray made five tackles and also blocked the only punt by Tress Way this season.
Kick blocker: Cory Littleton, LA Rams. For the second consecutive season, Littleton blocked an NFL-high two punts – one by Drew Kiser of the Chargers in September and one by Bradley Pinion of the 49ers in October. The Kiser block was recovered in the end zone for a Rams' touchdown and the Pinion block bounded out of the end zone for a safety. Littleton also deflected a third punt against Seattle.
Deep Snapper: Zach Wood, New Orleans. Few deep snappers were as busy as Wood this season and even fewer few were as effective. He snapped for 83 placement kicks and Will Lutz converted 80 of them. In addition, Wood’s snaps allowed punter Thomas Morstead to lead the NFL in net punting average at 43.2 yards.
Holder: Riley Dixon, NY Giants. The Giants sent their Pro Bowl kicker Aldrick Rosas out 65 times for points and he converted 63 of his chances. He was 32-of-33 in field goals and 31-of-32 in conversions. None of his kicks were blocked and his only field goal miss was a 52-yarder that fell short. Credit Dixon with flawless placements for Rosas, giving him a chance to convert with every snap.
Personal protector: Kevin Byard, Tennessee. The NFL’s leading interceptor in 2017, Byard doubled up as the personal protector on the punt team in 2018 and made his presence felt in the opening month of the season. He tossed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Dane Cruikshank on a fake punt in a 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans on the second weekend. Byard also chipped in five special-teams tackles this season as the Titans finished in the NFL’s Top 10 in net punting.