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Special teams to get measured against Jets

Posted Oct 17, 2011

San Diego’s new era of special teams will get tested against one of the NFL’s best units in the New York Jets.


SAN DIEGO – The Chargers’ special teams have become an asset in recent weeks, making nine field goals in the last two games and increasing the punt return average with some good plays by Patrick Crayton.

There’s always room for improvement, but San Diego has limited the return game by booming most kickoffs into or out of the end zone.

Young players are producing. Darrell Stuckey is tied for the team lead with four special teams tackles in what’s essentially his first NFL season, and Andrew Gachkar, drafted in the seventh round specifically for special teams, has three stops. Perennial special teams leader Jacob Hester also has four.

San Diego’s special teams growth, with revamped personnel and new coach Rich Bisaccia, will be tested Sunday against the New York Jets. The Jets have the No. 1 special teams unit in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, a well-respected analytics group loosely tied to ESPN.

Joe McKnight, the Jets’ kickoff returner, had a 107-yard touchdown earlier this season and has averaged 37.9 yards on the eight other kicks he returned entering Monday Night Football. His combined 45.6-yard average is by far the best in the NFL.

“He is really good. They’re really good in what they do,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. They’re really good at special teams and it’s been a big emphasis.

“The thing we do have going for us right now is the way Nick is kicking the ball. If he’s not kicking it out of the end zone he’s kicking it awfully deep and he’s helping our coverage. We gave up the one early, but I think it’s gotten better as we’ve gone through these five games.”

Novak, not on the roster Week 1 and not on the field this week because of the bye, has rocketed to 16th in the NFL in points (42) and touchbacks (14). Eleven of them came in the last two games, along with nine field goals.

Only Chicago’s Robbie Gould (13-of-13) has attempted more field goals without a miss this season.

Punter Mike Scifres, in his ninth season, is as good as ever after signing a new five-year contract through 2016. Scifres does not qualify for the league leaders with just 12 punts, a product of an offense moving the ball as well as any between the 20-yard lines. But his 46.3-yard average would be the second-best season of his career, and his net average is up six yards from last season.

TURN ON THE TV: NFL coaches don’t watch much TV.

Their schedules make it nearly impossible during the season, and if they grab a remote it’s usually to watch college football or something with family during rare free hours.

Expect them to make an exception tonight when the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets play on Monday Night Football.

“I think it gives you a feel for a team (to watch a game live),” Head Coach Norv Turner said.

The staff will get a coaches’ copy of the game (full-field view) around 5 a.m. Tuesday as well.

“Obviously we’ve looked hard at all their games to this point, but the most recent is always the one you spend the most time with, so we’ll be anxious to get that tomorrow morning,” Turner said.

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