Updated, 2:40 p.m. ET
Nick Bellore bundled 472 tackles in his career as a Central Michigan linebacker, third-most in Chippewas history. It should be no surprise that he’s showing his tackling skills at the next level.
“I’m confident in my abilities,” the free agent rookie said this week about establishing himself on the Jets’ special teams. “I knew that no matter where I went after the lockout, I was going there to play. Obviously some things are out of your control, but the Jets have given me a great opportunity here and I’ve been able to make the best of it.”
Bellore has yet to display his LB skills in the regular season, but his tackling remains sharp. His 11 tackles on kick coverage, from the video breakdown by coaches Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica, lead the Jets heading into Monday’s very important return to MetLife Stadium to play the Dolphins.
He’s taken down other teams’ punt returners and kickoff returners, with the latter being in particular danger from a Bellore wrapup. His solo tackle in Game 2 started the Jaguars at their 15 after a Nick Folk kickoff, and an assist the next week at Oakland gave the Raiders the same starting spot. He’s been one of the main contributors to the kickoff coverage unit, which is second in the NFL in opponents’ return average (18.0) and third in opponents’ average drive start (19.5).
“Every week I learn something new, a few techniques, little stuff that you can’t necessarily get from reading the playbook, just by experience,” Bellore said. “I’ve got to be ready to play defense, but I’m going to be playing a lot of snaps on special teams, so just learning what the opponent does, what I have to do, how to best use my techniques. so it is a little different from college, but it’s something I’ve embraced and I really enjoy.”
Something he doesn’t enjoy as much is getting flagged, which is what happened when he shoved Wes Welker at the Patriots 41 on the boundary on a punt return at the top of the second quarter last Sunday. Unnecessary roughness, 15 yards.
The shame of it was that Bellore’s hit shouldn’t have been penalized. Welker was striding toward the Jets sideline but his left foot had not yet touched down when Bellore made contact. No. 83 was still inbounds.
Yet this was another one of those pro learning experiences for the young man from Whitefish Bay, Wis. There are no replay challenges on penalties. Welker is legendarily elusive but sure appeared to be heading out of bounds. Was the reward worth the risk?
“Things like that will happen when you’re trying to play fast and make a play,” Bellore said. “Obviously, I’ll learn as I get older. Some things you’ve just got to kind of let go and maybe don’t hit him there. It was a bang-bang play and you can’t be committing penalties like that, especially at that part of the field. … There’s really nothing gained in that, so I know now.”
Bellore’s postgraduate work continues. Next class: Monday night.
Saturday Injury Updates
With a Monday night game come Saturday injury reports. The Jets listed four players as out for the Dolphins: DT Ropati Pitoitua (knee), CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring), CB Donald Strickland (concussion) and WR Logan Payne (wrist). Pitoitua and Trufant didn’t practice today, Strickland was limited. C Nick Mangold was also limited and is listed as questionable. The eight other Jets on the injury list were full participants in practice and are listed as probable.
For Miami, four players were limited at practice in South Florida and are questionable for the game: CB Nolan Carroll (hamstring), S Chris Clemons (hamstring), RB Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and TE Will Yeatman (shoulder). CB Vontae Davis (hamstring) practiced full and is probable.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Ben Kotwica, Mike Westhoff, New England, Nick Bellore, Wes Welker
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