Kalif Raymond’s departure leaves New York Jets with two options at punt returner

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New York Jets

Kalif Raymond’s two-game tenure with the New York Jets was full of miscues and frustration.

The 2016 undrafted free agent from Holy Cross muffed two punts in New York’s season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. His fumbled punt in Week 2 — which was the beginning of the end for any chance at a Jets victory — sealed his fate. He was promptly waived on Tuesday.

Raymond’s departure opens the door for a pair of Jets to assume the vacant punt returner job: wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and rookie running back Elijah McGuire.

“Right now, we have Kerley catching some punts, McGuire will catch some punts, and we’ll make a decision on gameday,” coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday.

Kerley and McGuire seem like the two most qualified candidates on the roster, at least until Jalin Marshall returns from his four-game suspension.

Kerley spent five years returning punts as a Jet from 2011-15. In total, he returned 134 punts for an average of 9.3 yards per return. The veteran even returned a punt for a touchdown in Week 1 of the 2012 season.

However, Kerley may be best remembered for his tendency to seemingly always call a fair catch. While he was never known for his explosive returns, he was serviceable and reliable, something that could not be said about Raymond.

Meanwhile, McGuire may be the more intriguing candidate for the position. The sixth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette only returned 28 punts over his four-year career, but has upside as a special teamer.

“[Elijah is a] sure-handed guy, reliable guy, very explosive,” said Marquase Lovings, an assistant coach at UL-Lafayette. “He’s going to make the first guy miss and that’s what you can ask for on a punt return.”

McGuire said in an interview with Jet Fuel this offseason that he would be willing to accept any role he was given. Punt returner may be his next calling. In Week 2, McGuire was a surprising bright spot, rushing for 29 yards on six carries.

“He’s always been special with the ball in his hands,” Lovings said of McGuire. “That’s perhaps two, four, six more touches with the ball in his hands for him to make a play.”

New York’s depth chart for Week 3 not only has Kerley and McGuire as the starters at punt return, but also as the primary kick returners. They will surely get opportunities to impress special teams coach Brant Boyer against the Dolphins. As a team, the Jets have returned five punts and four kickoffs through the first two games.

Editor’s Note: The New York Jets signed Raymond to their practice squad on Thursday, after he cleared waivers.

About Max Marcilla

Max is a sophomore broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland. He is the news director for WMUC Sports, a reporter for The Left Bench TV and the co-owner of New York Jet Fuel, a site dedicated to covering the New York Jets. You can contact Max at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MMarcilla98.