Linebacker Jamaal Westerman has seized the opportunity of this Jets training camp and has been rewarded for his efforts by the coaching staff. This morning he spoke about his desire to be a factor for the defense this season.
“That’s the kind of person I am,” said Westerman. “I want to keep improving. Until you reach your goals, what are you going to do? Sit back and wait? I think we all have individual goals, but we also have a team goal that we’re all trying to reach.”
Thus far, Westerman has opened the eyes of the coaching staff and players on both sides of the ball. Today, head coach Rex Ryan asserted that the second team defensive line and pass rushers are “dominating the practices.” Westerman is a member of that group, seemingly penetrating the offensive backfield at will, displaying his speed and sheer power.
Last week, Ryan pegged Westerman as a player he could see making a contribution on defense as a DPR, or designated pass rusher.
“It’s finally time,” said Ryan. “It’s his third year. It’s time to unleash him. The thing is that he’s been up against Brick [D’Brickashaw Ferguson] forever, so when you’re going against one of the elite players in the league day in and day out, one of two things happens. Either you get beat down so bad you just go home and go on to your life’s work, or you get better. He’s done a fine job.”
In 20 career games, Westerman has compiled six tackles and a sack, numbers that should improve dramatically this season. As a lifelong defensive end, he has been making the transition to standup linebacker since joining the Jets, a process to which he sees no end.
“I think it’s a learning process that always goes on,” said Westerman. “I think I have a better grasp on it now than I had last year and the year previous. Until you’re done playing, you’re always trying to get a little better.”
Westerman is one of several former DEs now playing LB for the Jets. The shared experience of switching positions has forced the defense to grow closer, feeding information to one another. He says there is an awful lot to get used to after spending your entire career with a hand on the ground.
“We’re working on drops, coverages, different reads,” said Westerman. “There are things you see more on your feet, but you have to know what you’re seeing and how it pertains to you. You have to take it in and be able to calculate it.”
As a defender whose primary responsibility is to pressure the QB, Westerman has concentrated on his pass rush skills. Some of the advice he receives in practice comes from his “opponents,” the Jets’ offensive linemen, for whom he has high praise.
“They’re out there working hard,” said Westerman. “Every now and then, I might ask, ‘Hey, what did you see there? Why did you set like this on me?’ And they might ask, ‘Well, why did you do this pass rush on me? What did you feel?’ Each of us is trying to get better individually, but we’re also trying to get better as a team. So whenever you can help a guy, you always try to help him out.”
In addition to Ryan, the improvement of Westerman has also caught the eye of a fellow defender, who believes now is the time for him to break out.
“The first year, you don’t really understand how to be a pro yet,” said LB Bart Scott. “The second year, you become comfortable and assume that you know more than you really know. You find yourself making mistakes that you know better than to make. The third year, you come in hungry because you know by the fourth year, if you haven’t made that leap, you’re out of the league.”
Hunger is something that defines Westerman. He says his motor and relentless approach are his most valuable assets, two traits most desired by Ryan. Westerman’s skillset was on display in today’s practice, as he feigned blitz on two separate occasions and deflected passes by both Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell.
“I want to be that guy who’s never satisfied, who always stays hungry,” said Westerman. “I haven’t reached my goals, and we haven’t reached our goals as a team, so I’m always motivated and passionate about this game. Rex says he doesn’t ask for a lot, he just asks for everything you’ve got.”
“Everything” is what Westerman plans to give the Jets this season.
Mason’s First Action as a Jet
Newly acquired WR Derrick Mason participated in team drills for the first time today. In limited action, Mason was positioned in the slot with the first offense. Sanchez found Mason on the first snap of team drills, hitting him on a quick out.
“It felt good to be back out on the field, to laugh, get pushed around and catch a few balls,” Mason said after the workout. “I just have to get my legs up under me. They started to go a little bit on me in the middle of practice, but I’m not worried about that. A few more practices, I’ll be fine.”
Mason wore pink cleats today, a decision he cleared with Ryan. There’s a reason for his choice of footwear.
“My mom is dealing with breast cancer — this is her second bout,” Mason explained. “She is going through remission now, so I just continue to wear the cleats throughout the whole season.”
For the second day in a row, WR Plaxico Burress spent very little time working with the full first offense, although he got more than the reps he got Sunday. … CB Darrelle Revis made a nifty interception of Sanchez on a short pass over the middle intended for WR Logan Payne. … LB David Harris worked individual drills but sat out the team period. No reason was given.
Newly signed LBs David Herron, a fourth-year player, and rookie Eddie Jones got reps with the backup units. … Herron played at Michigan State, giving the Jets six Spartans on their current roster of 88 (plus Brandon Moore on PUP). … Former TE Anthony Becht, one of the Jets’ “Four Aces” first-round picks in 2000, came by for a sideline visit.
Brunell put on a clinic during the two-minute drill at the end of practice. The 40-year-old QB began with a 32-yard pass over the middle to rookie WR Scotty McKnight. Two snaps later, Brunell found McKnight again. S Davon Morgan played the pass aggressively, arrived to the ball late, and was beat by McKnight for a “game-winning” 35-yard touchdown. … While the second offense got the best of the second defense in two-minute, the opposite held true for the first teams. Led by Scott, the defensive army applied tremendous pressure to Sanchez. The drive stalled at the opposing 30 after a failed fourth-down conversion.
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