On Wednesday, we asked if the Jets need to draft a kickoff returner having asked on Tuesday if Braxton Berrios should get more chances on offense. The logical next question is whether they need to draft a punt returner.
In 2019, Berrios looked like a good find for the Jets as he was 7th in the league in punt return yardage and 2nd in average. However, last year saw his special teams production dry up as he ended up with just 10 returns for 86 yards.
The problem was that he kept fair catching everything. That's not necessarily on him, though. If the vice gets beaten by the gunner, which was happening routinely, then he really has no choice. However, there were one or two plays where he looked to have room but still took a fair catch.
Berrios' production actually improved after midseason because he had only managed to return two punts in the first eight games. Maybe that's a sign he had things figured out or that the Jets did a better job with their vices. Adding Justin Hardee in free agency will hopefully make a difference too.
The Jets also opted to put Chris Hogan back there instead of him at times, notably when fielding punts near their own goal line. Hogan fair caught every one of his attempts. This could be viewed as a sign the Jets didn't trust Berrios in those situations - something that would be strange for a player with just one muffed punt in his entire pro and college career - or were they looking to reduce his workload on special teams so that he was freed up to play more on offense?
Even if the Jets still have Berrios ear-marked for this role, they still might look to add someone else that is capable of doing this role, in case he gets hurt or moves into a full-time role on offense.
However, they do have a few alternative options on the roster. Keelan Cole only fielded nine punts last year, but he ran one back for a touchdown, so he'd seem like a good option to fill in if Berrios got hurt. Similarly, Jamison Crowder has had plenty of experience and some success fielding punts, so he could fill in there at a pinch. You likely wouldn't want either player as the first choice though, assuming they'll be regular parts of the offensive rotation.
Beyond these two, there aren't many experienced options on the roster. Saquan Hampton had some success returning punts in high school and Ashtyn Davis had a couple of good returns in college when asked to step in as an emergency punt returner due to injury.
No doubt the Jets will also audition some of their young backs and receivers during training camp, but they need to be sure they have a safe pair of hands back there. The Jets need a plan in place for this role, plus some contingencies in case anything changes during the season.