The Baltimore Ravens special teams unit enters the 2022 season with sky-high expectations. Led by five-time All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker, the Ravens have invested heavily in ensuring this unit remains one of the league’s best. Combining new fourth-round pick—punter Jordan Stout—with returner/receiver Devin Duvernay should give the Ravens an edge in field position battles all season. With standout contributors like Kristian Welch and Geno Stone, the Ravens should lean on this veteran unit if need be.
Evan McPherson was one of many Bengals who made a name for themselves during the 2021 postseason. Over four games, McPherson converted a record 14 consecutive field goals without a miss. And with veteran punter Kevin Huber back for his 14th season in Cincinnati, the Bengals are likely to have one of the most consistent kicking duos in the NFL this season. One other player that figures to contribute in a key role is specialist/safety Michael Thomas. He leads a coverage unit— along with Akeem Davis-Gaither and Clay Johnston— that could be one of the stronger groups in the league this season.
Las Vegas Raiders
Thanks in large part thanks to the emergence of kicker Daniel Carlson late last season, the Raiders’ special teams has the potential to be one of the league’s best next season. Carlson converted on 23 consecutive field goals over the last eight weeks of the 2021 season and kicked the Raiders into the playoffs with a clutch 47-yarder against the Los Angeles Chargers in week 18. The combination of Carlson and 2021 first-team All-Pro punter AJ Cole— along with what’s likely to be a solid coverage and return team— could make for one of the most consistent and reliable units in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are poised to put out a versatile and explosive special teams unit in 2022. With solid contributions from players like Punter Tommy Townsend and electric returner Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs should be able to control the field position battle. Another asset to the unit will be tight end, Noah Gray. Gray offers the Chiefs incredible versatility as one of the few NFL tight ends adept in special teams coverage. Kicker Harrison Butker will be looking to maintain his success. With a career field goal percentage above 90 percent, he’s gone 11 of 13 kicking field goals of 50 yards or more over the last two seasons.
New Orleans Saints
Assuming Kicker Will Lutz can return to form coming off a groin injury last season, new Head Coach Dennis Allen could potentially field one of the better special teams units in football this upcoming season. Punter Blake Gillikin will return after a promising rookie season. Plus, shifty return man Deontay Harty and reliable coverage specialist Zach Baun should help support a unit that boasts one of the premier special teamers in football, JT Gray. A 2021 first-team All-Pro, Gray is one of the league’s top 3 players in kick and punt coverage.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez returns to the Panthers this year after playing 12 games for the club last season. Gonzales can sometimes run hot and cold. From week 5 to week 13 Gonzales did not miss a single field goal or extra point. Carolina also added decorated punter Johnny Hekker— a four-time All-Pro— fresh off a Super Bowl win with the LA Rams. Hekker should provide stability to a Panthers unit that had three players attempt ten or more punts last season. Standout coverage specialists Chris Westry and Sam Franklin Jr also figure to be major contributors. If Matt Rhule can find a way to successfully balance the explosive DJ Moore and the sure-handed Andre Roberts in the return game, this unit could provide a spark for Carolina.
The Cowboys boast one of the NFL’s premier Punters in Bryan Anger. Though his placekicking counterpart has yet to be singled out. Jonathon Garibay and Lirim Hajrullahu will compete for the chance to start as Dallas’ kicker this season. This creates something of an unknown in a Cowboys unit that can be incredibly dangerous in the right situation. Much of that determination comes down to whether or not star wideout Ceedee Lamb is back to return punts. Depth corners CJ Godwin and Kelvin Joseph, meanwhile, are likely to lead a steady coverage unit.
A training camp battle between kickers Riley Patterson and Austin Seibert will be the main story for a Lions special teams unit that could take a step forward in its second year under head coach Dan Campbell. Patterson may have a slight advantage going into the preseason. A strong punter—Jack Fox— and an underrated return man in Kalif Raymond— who makes up for his diminutive size with elite quickness— should also help lead the unit to success. Look for linebacker Chris Board and defensive back Jerry Jacobs to lead the kick coverage units when healthy.
Kicker Jake Elliot— one of the most consistent in the league from inside of 45 yards— will look to maintain the success he’s had thus far in his career. Punter Arryn Siposs should pair with Elliot to form a reliable kicking tandem. Returner Jalen Reagor has flashed real explosiveness and has the potential to take a positive step forward as a specialist this season. Defensive back Zech McPhearson and linebacker TJ Edwards are standouts in kick coverage who should help make this unit one of the league’s best.
The Bills took a flyer on Punter Matt Araiza in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The rookie will compete with veteran Matt Haack for the starting job this season. Tyler Bass, meanwhile, has the kicker position all but locked down. He enters his third season in the league as a reliable option for a Bills team looking to contend. Buffalo pairs dynamic wideout Isaiah McKenzie with reliable safety Micah Hyde in the return game. The sure-handed Hyde provides reliability. McKenzie, on the other hand, poses a threat to pick up huge yardage any time he returns a kick. Buffalo also brings back coverage specialist Siran Neal— one of the NFL’s truly elite special teams players.
New Head Coach Mike McDaniel will be hoping to get the most out of talented— though inconsistent— kicker Jason Sanders. Veteran punter Thomas Morstead should be a reliable option and part-time returner Jaylen Waddle has the speed and shiftiness to take the ball to the house from anywhere on the field. The Dolphins also roster two of the league’s best coverage specialists in Brandon Jones and Clayton Fejedelem.
Denver will need talented kicker Brandon McManus to find his rhythm early to supplement what looks to be a potentially potent offense. McManus has the leg to make kicks from deep and could give the Broncos more scoring opportunities. Linebacker Jonas Griffith and Safety PJ Locke provide value in kick coverage. While Punter Sam Martin and returner Kendall Hinton will look to keep the Broncos in good field position.
Veteran Kicker Chris Boswell returns for his 8th season in the black and yellow to battle the swirling winds that come standard in the AFC North. He has been consistent and reliable for the Steelers in his career thus far. Return man Gunner Olszewski comes over from the Patriots to give Pittsburgh an experienced player back returning kicks. Pittsburgh also has one of the stronger kick coverage.
New York Jets
Kicking in the AFC East is not an easy job. The Jets decided to bring in Greg Zuerlein to compete with Eddy Piniero for the starting job. The winner of that competition will be joined by returner Braxton Berrios— who provides toughness and agility— and coverage standouts Jason Pinnock and Hamsah Nasirildeen on a Jets special teams unit looking to put their team in a position to be successful.
New England Patriots
Head Coach Bill Belichek will let inexperienced kicker Tristan Viscaino compete with veteran Nick Folk for the starting kicking job. An exceptional talent from inside the 45, Viscaino should get a real shot to win the role. The defensive-minded head coach traditionally values consistency at the kicking position over a big leg. In the return game new signing Julius Peppers is likely to compete with Ty Montgomery. The two could potentially end up sharing the role. The Patriots will continue to place extra emphasis on special teams rostering three players mainly for their prowess in kick coverage. Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Cody Davis all figure to be major contributors to a unit that is regularly one of the league’s best.
Los Angeles Rams
Former 5th-round pick Matt Gay returns to the defending champs as an underrated kicking option. Punters Riley Dixon and Cameron Dicker will compete for the starting job and look to keep the Rams in an advantageous field position all season. Tutu Atwell and superstar receiver Cooper Kupp will likely handle most of the kick and punt returns while safety Nick Scott leads the coverage unit.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers hope to get above-average production out of their kicking and punting this season. That could potentially put an already strong unit over the top. After spending the last few seasons looking for consistency at the kicker position, the Chargers turn to veteran Dustin Hopkins this year. They also brought in experienced returner Deandre Carter to give the team a smart, steady influence in the return game. The top special teamers for the Chargers— Kemon Hall, Troy Reeder and Nick Neiman— will look to continue their standout play.
Houston will need to get the most out of kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn to reach their potential this year. Punter Cameron Johnston will, however, likely maintain the high level of play the team has come to expect of him. Experienced returner Desmond King II and a coverage unit led by MJ Stewart will look to keep a rebuilding Texans team out of poor field position.
The question for this Atlanta special teams unit will be whether or not electric returner Cameron Batson can stay healthy. Kicker Younghoe Koo will look to stay in the positive rhythm he found last season and coverage specialist Mike Ford should also be an asset for this developing unit.
The Jaguars will be looking to rookie kicker Andrew Mevis to win the job in camp after a strong career at Iowa State. Punter Logan Cooke will be a solid option first-year head coach Doug Pederson can rely on. The former Super Bowl-winning head coach will also be looking to returner Jamal Agnew to be a difference maker when healthy. Finally, talents like Daniel Thomas, Brandon Rusnak and Chris Claybrooks will all contribute positively to kick coverage.
San Francisco 49ers
Kicker Robbie Gould will return for another season as the 49ers look to maintain their status as one of the league’s premier teams. Gould— entering his 18th NFL season— has shown his age in recent years and will look for a return to form. Also hoping to make major contributions will be return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud III— supplemented by Brandon Aiyuk— and talented coverage man Deommodore Lenoir.
After suffering through a revolving door at the kicker position the last two seasons, Washington will look to former Carolina Panther Joey Slye to steady the boat. Punter Tress Way, along with returners Dax Milne and Curtis Samuel, also figure to help a Washington team with playoff hopes. David Mayo— one of Washington’s best players in kick coverage— rounds out what could end up being a solid unit should Slye find success.
After spending years as the League’s premier unit behind legendary returner Devin Hester, the Bears are in something of a special teams rebuild. Kicker Cairo Santos is exceptionally talented from inside the 40. Though he— as many have before— struggles as the weather picks up in Chicago and the winds become harder to deal with. Chicago hopes rookie punter Trenton Gill and rookie return man Trestan Ebner can join coverage specialist Caleb Johnson in helping to breathe life into this developing unit.
38-year-old kicker Matt Prater will return to the Cardinals this season hoping to find more consistency to go along with his big leg. The Cardinals, clearly valuing experience, will go with Punter Andy Lee— the oldest punter in the league— to start the season. Return man Rondale Moore will look to take a step forward in his second season with the club. Meanwhile, linebacker Ben Gardeck and defensive back Antonio Hamilton will lead the kick coverage unit.
Rodrigo Blankenship will return after missing most of the 2021 season due to injury and the Colts hope he can return to his pre-injury form. Indianapolis will rely on a combination of Nyheim Hines and Isaiah Rodgers in the return game and hope to get a major contribution from coverage specialist Ashton Dulin as well.
New York Giants
The Giants will again turn to veteran Graham Gano to handle the kicking game this season. It’s possible that in an unforgiving NFC East environment age will become a factor for Gano this year. If the Giants can keep return man CJ Board healthy and get a boost from coverage specialist Cam Brown, this unit could improve on their performance from last season.
Joseph Carlton and former Buffalo Bill Corey Bojorquez will compete for the job as the starting punter while rookie fourth-round pick Cade York will handle the placekicking duties. Jakeem Grant will serve as the return man this season and— when healthy— can be one of the league’s best. Linebacker Tony Fields II is the Browns’ most adept player in kick coverage and should lead that unit in 2022.
One key to watch for the Seahawks this season will be the play of Jason Myers who returns to the team after struggling last season. Seattle will need more consistency from Myers to have success as a unit this season. They’ll also get help from reliable returner Freddie Swain and ace special teamer Ben Burr-Kirven.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs will again turn to Ryan Succop to handle kicking. The veteran can improve on last season if he can be more accurate on short, routine kicks. Rookie fourth-round pick Jake Camarda could end up being a real asset to the team if he’s able to adjust to the speed of the pro game. Tampa Bay will rely on Giovanni Bernard in the return game and hope that standout coverage specialist Ross Cockrell can bring stability to a unit that will need to improve if the Bucs are going to make another deep playoff run.
Veteran kicker Randy Bullock will compete with Caleb Shudak for the starting job to open camp. The starting punter will be Brett Kern, entering his 14th season with the Titans. Despite this experience, the coverage unit could struggle without top-tier special teams talent outside of depth safety AJ Moore.
The Vikings are looking to end the revolving door they had at kicker under former head coach Mike Zimmer. New coach Kevin O’Connell will turn to Greg Joseph— a gifted kicker who had a tumultuous run in his first season with Minnesota. With elite talents like safety Camryn Bynum in kick coverage and underrated Kene Nwangwu in the return game, the Vikings do have the potential to improve this season.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers will turn to veteran Mason Crosby as their kicker and former third-round pick Amari Rodgers as the kick returner. Without many impact players on special teams— aside from linebacker Isaiah McDuffie— Green Bay needs to find more consistency from a unit that struggled last season. They may have even cost their team a Super Bowl appearance after a shaky showing against San Francisco in the NFC.