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The biggest tackle of the Jets’ season came from a 5-foot-11, 198-pound punter. That about sums it up.
Rookie punter Braden Mann’s fourth-quarter tackle of Rams punt returner Nsimba Webster was critical in the Jets’ 23-20 win over the Rams, their first victory of the season.
“It just tells you what kind of kid he is right there,” special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. “It was a heck of a job and it saved the game for us.”
The tackle was Mann’s fourth this season. He has shown a willingness to tackle and an ability to pull it off. Mann played linebacker as a kid but stopped after his freshman year of high school. He then concentrated on kicking. Mann went on to have a standout career at Texas A&M, and the Jets took him in the sixth round of the draft this year.
“I have a little bit of linebacker left in me, I guess,” Mann said. “Not a whole lot. I’m glad I don’t have to do that on a regular basis.”
The tackle may have changed NFL history. It came with 5:47 left in the game and the Jets clinging to a 23-20 lead. Mann punted from his own 27 and hit the ball well, drilling it 50 yards. Webster appeared to be pinned on the sideline but somehow broke through the Jets coverage. He raced 34 yards before Mann took his legs out at the Jets’ 43.
It looked like Webster might score if Mann did not bring him down. Instead, the Jets defense stopped the Rams, and the Jets won their first game of the season. Of course, that means they probably won’t get the No. 1 pick in the draft or the chance to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If the Jets watch Lawrence become a star for the Jaguars, Mann will be a footnote in that history.
Mann is not worried about that. He played a key role in the Jets’ first win of the season and drew praise from his teammates and coaches. Mann has punted pretty well in his rookie year. He leads the NFL with 70 punts and has averaged 45 yards per punt. But his tackling is what got him attention this week.
“We joke with the defensive guys that, if we need to learn how to tackle, we’ll just bring him over to the defensive side,” Jets coach Adam Gase said. “If we have a couple missed tackles, we give them some crap about it.”
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