We’ve been hearing a lot about the bodily transformations going on in the Jets locker room thanks in part to the guidance from strength coach Bill Hughan and his staff. Bart Scott’s dropped 20 pounds and is looking, in Mike Pettine’s words, “is running around like a young Bart.” Kenrick Ellis has shed 15 pounds from last year’s 346-pound playing weight and wants to get rid of 5 more. Joe McKnight told us he’s added 15 pounds of muscle and lost no speed.
Add Nick Bellore to the list. As he walks through the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room, there’s a sense that his back muscles are rippling just a little bit more than the mind’s eye recalled a year ago, when he was the Jets’ undrafted rookie find out of Central Michigan.
But the Jets’ second-year linebacker and kick-coverage leader said the numbers in his case might lie.
“I weigh about the same as last year, around 245,” Bellore said. “But I’ve improved my body. Moving around, I can tell how I’m looking and how I feel. I’ve got the size to be able to handle my linebacker duties and I still have my speed for all the special-teams stuff.”
For Bellore, that’s important. Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica, watching glumly as the Jets had to release their top three ST tacklers/performers from the ’10 team in Lance Laury, James Ihedigbo and Brad Smith, needed some holdovers and new talent to step up and fill the void. They got that from the likes of Josh Mauga, Garrett McIntyre and Jamaal Westerman … and Bellore.
The Jets early on noted that Bellore could be one of their undrafted signees who might be able to break through to the roster. And they were right. He led the Jets with 22 solo and 31 total kick-coverage tackles (Mauga was second with 14 and 20). Many of the stops came for the kickoff team, which was sixth in the NFL in opponents’ average start after kickoffs (21.2-yard line) and third in the league in inside-the-20 stops on KO returns (26, behind New England’s 30 and Atlanta’s 28).
Bellore acknowledges he’s got a leg up on all the new guys in green trying to gain spots on the six special units.
“I think camp’s going to be easier for me,” he said after the last OTA practice of last week. “I know what’s around the corner. I’m more comfortable. I can just play football. That first year, you’ve got to meet everybody, get to know everybody.”
Now he’s got to fend off those who are out to bump him down the depth chart if not off the roster. The most dangerous player for Bellore probably is third-round rookie Demario Davis, whom Westhoff was very pleased to hear had fallen to the Jets with the 77th pick of last month’s draft. He has the speed and smarts to make an impact on specials right away and the upside to grow into a player at inside ‘backer behind David Harris and Scott, which is where Mauga and Bellore now reside.
“Demario’s a nice kid and a good football player. He picks things up fast,” Bellore assessed. “I have to take special teams and lead the group by making plays. Dave’s in front of me and he’s a great player. We have a bunch of great inside linebackers. I’m just continuing to learn so I don’t miss a beat.”
Bellore knows what’s ahead. He knows it won’t be easy. But he knows he’s done it before and he plans to do it again.
“It’s never going to be easy for me,” he said. “I’m always going to have to fight the odds.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Ben Kotwica, David Harris, Demario Davis, Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore
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