Earlier today, Jets' running back/return specialist Joe McKnight was awarded the honor of being the AFC Special Teams' Player-of-the-Month for the month of October. Since being drafted out of USC in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Jets, McKnight hadn't really produced much in terms of offense for the Jets.
However, this has all changed in the 2011 season, as McKnight has shown why he was so highly recruited out of high school and why the Jets drafted him. Instead of helping out explicitly on the Jets' offense, McKnight's main impact is being felt on special teams.
This is why he was given the award from the NFL.
Starting out in Week 1 of this season, McKnight made his presence felt whenever he was on the football field. Against the Cowboys in the first game of the 2011 season for the Jets, McKnight blocked a Mat McBriar punt, which cornerback Marcus Trufant ran in for a touchdown.
That touchdown completely shifted the momentum of the game in addition to tying the score at 24 apiece. Later, Nick Folk would drill a game-winning field goal sending the Jets to a 1-0 record.
In addition to blocking punts, McKnight has been a revelation in the return game for the Jets. Due to the loss of the versatile Brad Smith in free agency to Buffalo, the Jets were left without their starting kick and punt returner from the 2010 season.
TCU wideout Jeremy Kerley was drafted to handle the punts and McKnight has been covering the kick returns. He has been doing an amazing job of that.
McKnight has the highest average yardage per kick return in the NFL right now at 40 yards per return, nearly 10 yards better than second place, Green Bay wide receiver/running back Randall Cobb. He is also one of only six return-men in the NFL to return a kick for a touchdown this year, which he did in Week 4 against Baltimore.
Even though McKnight hasn't proven to be an NFL-caliber running back yet in his young career, he has shown he has crazy explosiveness in special teams. He will probably be winning more of those AFC Special Teams Player-of-the-Month awards in the future.