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STS*: ‘Whatever I Have to Do to Help the Team’

Posted by Nick Gallo on November 6, 2010 – 11:50 am

When he came flying over the middle of the line of scrimmage in the Jets’ season opener, fans and media types alike did a double take. Was that Braylon Edwards? On a field goal block?

The Green & White wide receiver has the words “Whatever It Takes” tattooed across his shoulder blades as if it were the name on the back of his jersey. Few would expect a starting wide receiver to be featured in a special teams package, but these Jets are a different brand.

“You have to do anything that it takes to win,” Edwards said. “I think over time you learn that about this league in terms of getting victories. You have to do whatever is asked of you. If that’s what needs to happen to win, that’s what it takes to win, we’ll do that. I think that’s what this team is about and that’s the epitome of what these Jets represent, the willingness to do anything to win.”

Other Jets starters are utilized by special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff in certain situations, including safety Jim Leonhard, who not only is the main punt returners but also made a touchdown-saving tackle on the elusive Percy Harvin during the 29-20 victory over the Vikings. Leonhard didn’t receive a college scholarship when he played at Wisconsin and was also undrafted, so he knows the magnitude of the special teams’ impact on the game.

“The fact that I’m asked to do certain things, it’s something I’ve always done so it doesn’t really bother me,” Leonhard said. “Some guys, it’s almost like they take offense to the fact that they’re on special teams. There’s a great culture on this team with Westhoff that is important. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to have to step up sometimes and fill in.”

Leonhard said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery has returned punts and is now working on the punt return team and linebacker David Harris has filled in on the punt team. To many young players, special teams are the ticket to moving up on the depth chart. For the Jets, it’s even a key for veteran guys. With such a loaded roster, the more versatile you can be, the more valuable you are.

“You always want to have that attitude that special teams is important,” Leonhard said. “That’s all I did when I came to the league. I didn’t get a whole lot of snaps on defense early in my career. You realize where you have to fit on the football team in order to stay on the football team and in order for your team to have success.”

Eric Smith, Brad Smith, James Ihedigbo, Lance Laury and Marquice Cole are among the standouts on the special teams and are undying Westhoff disciples, but players such as Edwards, Leonhard and Cotchery prove to be essential complements.

Cotchery, the seventh-year man out of North Carolina State, has been playing on the punt return team for the past three weeks and has had a few reps in games so far, but his experience runs even deeper. 

“When I first got to the Jets I was on all four special teams,” Cotchery said. “I’m familiar with all the things Coach Westhoff has. If he needs to plug in a guy, a guy to come in and help out, he knows he can come to me because I’m familiar with all of the different stuff. He knows what to expect from me, and I know what he expects from his players. It’s a pretty comfortable position.”

Just last year, the 28-year-old with more than 4,000 career receiving yards returned 23 punts for a 10.3-yard average and even filled in for a kickoff return. Cotchery is one of the most selfless players on the team, but it’s an accolade that has a lot of nominees on head coach Rex Ryan’s roster.

“Really, a lot of people say that they want to win the Super Bowl and all of those things,” Cotchery said. “But when they’re asked to do things they kind of turn their cheek at it. Well, I’m serious about winning the Super Bowl, so whatever I have to do to help the team out, I’m all for it.”

*Special Teams Saturday

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Posted in Nick Gallo | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “STS*: ‘Whatever I Have to Do to Help the Team’”

  1. By scjoe on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    I am a big believer in the ST units. There are those who say “starters” should not be including in STs. I say why not? aren’t all ST players “starting” Are the STs any less valuable during a game then the offense or the defense? Just ask Miami and SD who have somewhere near four games lost, combined, simply due to bad ST play. Most teams do not use starters on their ST units, I think it shows up. Westhoff is among the top ST coaches in the league and is doing a great job, don’t change anything.

  2. By scjoe on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    For those of you, and their have been many, who criticized Pennington for having a “noodle” arm and no deep passing game, what do you think of this current deep passing game? The truth is we have less of a deep passing game now then we did then. Factor in, Chad really had no deep threats and Sanchez has both BE and SH and it stands out that much more. Maybe it is time to put that myth to rest once and for all. No matter what anyone said, Chad was consistent, accurate, and was a winner. That is all you can ask for in a QB.

  3. By carl on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    Yo bring some heart to Detroit!!! Go Jets!!!!

  4. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    Chad’s arm was perfectly fine for longer stuff even after his first injury, scjoe. It was later, when he kept getting hurt, that he just couldn’t throw that way anymore. I wasn’t impressed with Sanchez’s throws on longer stuff at USC and that’s why I opposed the pick at first, and sometimes I wonder if my instincts were right. But more often now I think he doesn’t have a complete grasp of the pro O and thus can’t make all the throws rather than it just being about arm strength. I also can’t shake the eerie feeling at times that the Sanchez pick was more about celebrity and marketability than pure skill. Oh well, if he’s no better next year, that’ll be it for him as a Jet.

  5. By charliejet on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    SCJOE – and a low interception rate as well.

  6. By GaryC on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    the jets will have to do major restruction with this defense next year. Look at the front seven.Harris is the only guy who is young enough to get better. Most have reached the plateau where improvement is not an option.start saving your drafts picks and make an effort to acquire more or falling behind the pats and dolphins will be a foregone conclusion.

  7. By TONY GARCIA on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    agreed MIKE WESTHOFF worked with don shula for many years special teams our important starters should play if it helps the team.jet fan since 1968.

  8. By charliejet on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    scjoe – Chad also had a very low interception rate as well.

  9. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    J-Co did a tremendous job when he was pressed into punt returns last year, showing his usual sure hands, knowing when to fair catch, and coming up with that clutch return in the SD game. I for one, though, don’t want to see him or Holmes or Edwards on ST too often, even if Edwards’ much-criticized “roughing the kicker” vs. BAL was more like “barely touching the kicker’s foot, who then put on an Oscar-winning performance.” Let’s get these guys humming at WR and start scoring real points more consistently.

  10. By Matt on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    SCJOE I completely agree with you. Sometimes I think Sanchez is to shor to see over the line and. He should roll out of the pocket more or do a big drop back like Drew Brees or something.

  11. By Pranit on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    agree with scjoe….Sanchize doesn’t have a strong arm…and and we all know about his accuracy…..Hope he turns it around fast otherwise this franchize is looking at another potential ……(dare i say it)….To be honest, when he drops back to pass, i get very nervous …very

  12. By charliejet on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    Randy has the BLG been slow or down – not getting any daily responses.

  13. By Clarke W. Griswald on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    I think the Pennington noodle arm talk got put to rest in ’08, when Favre sunk our ship and Chad won the division.

  14. By Jets Fan Since '64 Tom on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    That’s funny, Pranit, because I get nervous when Smith comes in at QB, especially because he usually does right when Sanchez has started a drive. And Smith is usually asked to run some weird reverse or something that utilizes the wrong guy or otherwise makes no sense. In other words, Schotty is screwing up both of these guys and the O as a whole.

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