Jaguars season review: Logan Cooke punts, Jamal Agnew returns spark special teams
When the Jaguars' offense or defense struggled during the 2022 season the special teams stepped in.
The Jags did not return a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown. They didn't block a kick. According to veteran NFL reporter Rich Gosselin, who compiles an annual ranking of special teams each season, the Jaguars were 11th in the league — which seems a bit low.
But while the big plays might have been lacking they made a ton of little plays and excelled in coverage under coordinator Heath Farwell.
Offense in review:Trevor Lawrence, Doug Pederson provide stability to offense
On defense:Josh Allen, Foye Oluokun revitalize Jacksonville's defense
Gene Frenette:Jaguars free agents have to balance paycheck with team loyalty
Punter Logan Cooke remained among the best in the NFL and flipped the field time and again.
After auditioning a half-dozen kickers in training camp, the Jaguars signed Riley Patterson a week before the season opened and he made 30 of 35 field-goal attempts and was 10th in the NFL in scoring with 126 points. Counting the two playoff games, he made 19 of his last 20 attempts.
Jamal Agnew remained a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
And Caleb Johnson, Andrew Wingard, Shaq Quarterman, Chris Claybrooks and Daniel Thomas excelled in coverage.
MVP: Logan Cooke
Cooke had another stellar season, booming kicks deep or short and precise to the corners when required.
He was third in the NFL in gross punting average at 49.3 yards per attempt, and sixth in net punting at 43.8 yards. Twenty-four of his punts were either downed, fair-caught, or the returners were tackled inside the 20-yard line.
Cooke has had only one punt blocked in 339 regular-season attempts.
In the two playoff games, he took the placekicking load off Patterson and put seven of his eight attempts into the end zone.
Top rookie: Chad Muma
Linebacker Chad Muma, a third-round draft pick, played special teams with enthusiasm and finished fifth on the team in special-teams tackles with nine.
Unsung hero: Caleb Johnson
Caleb Johnson led the Jaguars with 16 special-teams tackles (10 unassisted), the most since Chad Nkung and Brian Iwuh each had 17 in 2007. Brant Boyer also had 17 special-teams tackles in 1999.
Johnson was a blocking back on punts, played on the inside on punt returns, was two spots outside the kicker on kickoff teams and was on the middle of the front wall on kickoff returns teams.
Best game: Week 18 vs. Tennessee
The Jaguars got special-teams contributions in all phases when they beat the Titans 20-16 on Jan. 8 to clinch the AFC South title.
Agnew's 54-yard kickoff return in the second quarter gave the Jags offense a short field for their only offensive touchdown drive of the game, Patterson had field goals of 26 and 36 yards in the second half and Cooke nailed two punts inside the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, and all four of his attempts were downed, covered or fair-caught inside the Titans' 16.
The Jags defense forced a three-and-out after one of those fourth-quarter punts and Josh Allen returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown following the other.
Biggest play: Patterson for the win
Patterson made 14 field goals longer than 36 yards during the regular season but the one he made from that distance in the Jaguars' 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 14 completed the biggest comeback in team history and the third-longest in NFL playoff history.
Needs improvement: More blocks?
With the overall special teams performance so good in 2022, this seems a bit picky and one couldn't blame Farwell for not going after the punter more often with the threat of Agnew on returns.
But the last time the Jaguars blocked a punt was in 2020 (by Thomas, and returned for a touchdown) and before that, the Jaguars had not blocked a punt since 2017. If the team elects not to bring Agnew back for 2023 and a returner close to his capabilities is not found, the Jags may go for the punt block more often.
The Jaguars tied for 10th in the NFL with the fewest special-teams penalties with 12 and had only three presnap penalties on special teams. They tied for ninth for the most special-teams penalties the previous two seasons and in 2021 had eight presnap penalties.
Agnew averaged 37.8 yards on seven kickoff returns in two playoff games and 35.4 on 11 returns in the playoffs and the final regular-season game against the Titans. He was sixth among kickoff returners (with at least 20 attempts) at 26.0 for the season.
Cooke maintained his NFL career record of a 43.2 net punting average (since 1976, when the league began tracking the statistic).
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars 2022 review: Riley Patterson leads special teams' solid season