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STS*: Struggles Past, Challenges, Opportunities Ahead

Posted by jlholt32 on December 1, 2012 – 11:15 am

For whatever reasons, ever since returning from their bye week, the Jets’ special teams haven’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.

Trouble began in Seattle on Nov. 11 when punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a second-quarter punt, which the Seahawks recovered and soon thereafter turned into seven points.

That was followed up at St. Louis the next week when one of Nick Folk’s field goals was blocked and a Tim Tebow fake-punt shovel pass to Lex Hilliard was stopped.

And most recently, against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return, resulting in a TD for the opposition.

Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t have a clear explanation for the recent struggles.

“We do things in practice,” Westhoff said, “but there’s only so many things you can do. I mean, we can’t run a live kickoff coverage in practice this time of the year. We’ve already had a million. You have to be able to hang onto it. So those instances, even though they’re separate entities — very, very frustrating.”

Yet Westhoff was pleased with his kickoff covereage unit against the Pats.

“They couldn’t get to the 20,” Westhoff said. “They couldn’t have gotten to the 20 with an all-star team running that against what we were doing. We had it. I look at it technically. I know what I’m talking about. So we have them covered.”

Westhoff was shocked the McKnight miscue occurred, particularly because it looked like he had a chance to take the return all the way.

“Here I’m seeing this develop,” the ST coordinator said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got them. We’re going to hit this.’ All of a sudden it ends up becoming a gigantic play for them and they get the big Thanksgiving celebration and we get a weekend in Palookaville.”

Jets seventh-year safety Eric Smith said the mistakes and errors on special teams haven’t only been discouraging for Westhoff but for the entire unit.

“We’ve just given up a lot of plays that we don’t need to,” Smith said. “We’ve got them schemed up well, we’ve just got some guys out of position, missed some tackles or missed some blocks.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Sunday’s opponents, feature one of the NFL’s premier punt returners in Patrick Peterson. Last season as a rookie, Peterson tied the NFL single-season punt-return touchdown record, finishing with four, with all four of his scores at least 80-yard returns. Those impressive numbers certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Westhoff.

“I’ll tell you what he’s incredible at aside from being a prolific punt returner,” Westhoff said. “He rushes field goals as good as maybe anybody I’ve ever seen. He can run under a chair. He explodes and he’s low. He’s strong. At 220 pounds, he runs through a lot of things aside from being so explosive. He’s a real factor.

“Sometimes his numbers maybe aren’t quite what he would want them to be. He takes chances. I mean, he ran a 99-yard punt return. That meant he fielded it on the 1. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He does that kind of stuff. So he’s very daring.”

When Peterson entered the NFL out of LSU in 2011, Westhoff listed him as his top draft prospect.

“He’s extremely, extremely talented,” Westhoff said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”

The unit is also hoping personal protector Tim Tebow will be ready to go after he didn’t see action in last week’s game due to his broken ribs.

“I think I know Tim Tebow pretty well,” Westhoff said. “The guy’s pretty tough. Anytime you have one of those things, there’s always a safety or precaution because you don’t know what it could become.”

If the Jets envision being successful Sunday, one area they should attempt to capitalize on McKnight’s specialty, kickoff returns. Arizona ranks 30th in the NFL in both their 27.9-yard average return allowed and opponents’ averaged 24.3-yard-line drive start. But as Westhoff cautioned, it all circles back to fundamentals.

“Every play is measured by the proper execution of that play,” he said. “Sometimes a really good punt return is a fair catch. That can be a heck of a play, things like that. Whatever the situation requires, I want to try to win at that situation. And I want everyone to win at it, every single guy. That’s my goal.”

*Special Teams Saturday

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Posted in John Holt | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “STS*: Struggles Past, Challenges, Opportunities Ahead”

  1. By ron alexander on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    Special teams is usually a Jet strong point.However, with this years roster being below avg in terms of talent its really no surprise to anyone here our spec.Teams have not been up to par.Basically,its a trickle down effect as most teams use back-ups on special teams to protect their starters. When your starters are as bad as some of ours is it any surprise the reserves are worse? There are obvious exceptions to this as there are some decent back-ups (like D.Davis) but the better ones we have are also young and prone to the mistakes Randy mentiones here. I would like to think the fact that Westhoff will be retireing after this season is not a factor here as has been suggested by some ?

  2. By scjoe on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks for this story Randy, because it confirms my belief which I have been debating with others here for years now, that it all comes down to the personnel and the product that is put on the field. Did Mike Westhoff all of a sudden forget how to coach STs? The man is THEE most efficient STs coordinator in the game today! OR, is it the execution on the field that has blown up these past few weeks? Did he go out and change all the schemes and coverages on STs? I think not! They have been in place since mini camp and way beyond, the only thing that needs to be done is to execute them on the field.

  3. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    You can measure the absurdity of the present-day Jets by an interview with Westhoff in which he talks about Tebow playing an ST position instead of QB. The Wildcat years were merely foolish but this stuff now is truly bizarre! And that goes for playing Cromartie at WR and switching McKnight around every other week, too. I’m reminded of the old PEANUTS cartoon in which Snoopy is giving Charlie Brown elaborate thanks for bringing his supper and Charlie muses “I wonder what it would be like to just have a ‘dog’ dog?” What might it be like to have a Jet org that just drafts good players and develops them along the lines of the way the game is played today by the other 31 teams?

  4. By russ on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    this game may be preempted by a Sponge Bob Christmas special…

  5. By Bennett on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    When the Jets beat the hapless Cardinals it will be a breathless Ryan at the news conferance” we turned it around”…blah blah…” Sanchez looked sharp”…blah blah … “we have to get better.” Hey Ryan just for your information any decent team can come in to your home and slap you silly at will. A good team ..say the Texans, Niners, Giants, Pats, Ravens will come into your home slap you silly and humilate you. Your team is that bad. It’s a wonder that the NFLl would want you national next year after the pathetic preformances of this team. Tired of your talk, boasts, pre game mouth just move on and turn the lights out before you leave

  6. By GaryC on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    Alabama-Georgia game had more excitement then the whole jet year.

  7. By MIKE on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    Teams are mirror images of there owners. Look at Dallas Washington and Oakland, Each year shooting themselves in the foot with bad picks and high priced FA acquisitions. Then look at Pitt, Balt and NE. Loosing veterans but replacing them with good draft picks or smart cheap free agents. Starting to think the Jets are being to influenced by the owner with with drastic moved to sell tickets. Favre, Tebow, Plax among others have set the team back and are inexcusable. This team is very frustrating to watch. On the bright side, there is never a dull minute.

  8. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Dec 1, 2012 | Reply

    Bennett, you get away with over-using the phrase “slap you silly” because your observations are so on target!

  9. By DKM on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    Well of to the Debacle thats called the NYJ and another day at the stadium and posiblly another disappointment of a game. But like i said im in all away no remorse no turning back.
    And just to let everyone know this team IS JUST NOT GOOD if you watched them all year and you still debating Tebow vs Sanchez vs McElroy, Scott vs Davis, whole bunch of WR whom CANT hold on to the EGG and would be on the Practicesquad on even the worst NFL team then you should look for another Sport to root for, just keep it real here this team starting with the Owner down to the last guy on th PRSQ is NOT GOOD is that simple.

  10. By DKM on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    The Oline has been such an emberassment it really didnt matter if Hunter would be here or not, and if any of you watching think Mangold has been a Pro Bowler for the last 2 years and Ferguson is worth the overblowded contract you are nuts, and B. Moore speaking of holding on to a Player just 1 year toooo long prime example, and playing your RT position based on Bonuses well that tells you a lot about where the state of mind of this team is, i tell you if there is no real changes coming after this year welcome to the world of MSG Dolan Empire BUG and a Recoverytime 2002 – (still ongoing).THIS TEAM IS JUST NOT GOOD plain and simple.

  11. By Bennett on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    Byrdman I don’t know if you ever saw that ESPN special about Tebow. They had this kid working out like a Navy Seal, and Lord knows the have tinkered with his mechanics. I think the should have allowed him to evolve his own natuarl style and mechanics within a framework of proven NFL effeciancy. In other words the totally ___ up this kid because he didn’t fall in to the normal parameters. We have all seen alot of ugly QB’s be successful. Instead of pulling cars this kid should have been working on flexability, muscle coordination, speed, light weights with high reps and been coached WITHIN the framework of his natural style. The QB position does not call for a 450lb bench press. I think he knows this, he is a strange kid.

  12. By Bennett on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    If I could be allowed to make a point on muscle imbalance. Naturally your muscles are in almost perfect balance realitive to each other. Once you begin resistence training you change this balance. A world record holder in the squat tells a story how he witnessed a purse snatching and when he went to give chase he immediatley tore both hamstrings. His front quads were so strong realitve to the rear leg muscels and he was so out of balance it resulted in injury. Tebow is doing the totally wrong resistance training for the position he aspires to be good at, it is actually having a devasting effect on his accuracy that is not great naturally. Shame to watch as it is obvious to anyone who has lifted for differant sport/ position applications

  13. By SCfromNY on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    There is really too much to complain about lately. Part of the ST problem is personel but I feel there is another issue. The attitude of the coach and GM have made the players feel entitled. No one is pushing no one. They keep their job no matter how bad they play. St teams used to be a place to put rookies until they moved to be a starter. Sure some players stayed on ST but on the Jets no one is making a name for himself. If there is no competition EVERYONE becomes slow and lazy. Do not completely agree about “workout” muscles. I remember Phill Simms worked out with the OL especially on Bench presses. There have been many gym rats. Overall players are much more muscular than in years gone by. Better workouts and drugs.

  14. By SCfromNY on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    Randy: The whole look of your column and posts have changed. Just my weird computer or a change.

  15. By Randy Lange on Dec 2, 2012 | Reply

    SCfromNY, my bet is on your weird computer.

  16. By Arthur Greenspan on Dec 3, 2012 | Reply

    Special teams…a Jet mainstay for these past years, has become symbolic of the rest of the team. Void of talent, underachievers, too much complacency, etc, etc, etc. Did you see what happenned when they benched Sanchez yesterday and put McElroy in? All of a sudden the team became energized. OL was blocking, runners were running, and the energy in the building was soaring. Maybe Westhoff should bench a few of his prima donnas ASAP, and replace then with “hungry” players? I think “part” opf the overall problem is that Ryan coddles his players way too much. It’s an invitation to take advantage…

  17. By Frank on Dec 3, 2012 | Reply

    This real simple…put Sanchez on waivers and hope like hell someone claims him then the Jets are off the hook for one of the worst contract extensions in NFL history.
    You have to think there are a handful of teams that would grab him.
    McElroy did a great job managing the game and his pocket presence was significantly better than Sanchez. Is he the answer? who knows. We do know that Sanchez is not the answer.

  18. By SOCALJETS on Dec 3, 2012 | Reply


  19. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom Vindicated Slightly on Dec 3, 2012 | Reply

    Frank, I like the waiver route for Sanchez a lot, the only thing folks are really stressing about now is the $8 mil, so let’s eliminate that factor and move on. SOCAL, most of Sanchez’s “drops” are badly-thrown balls that receivers are lucky to even get their hands on. Stop beating some mancrush stick for this loser and start watching the games more carefully. Every pass Mc threw yesterday was thrown more accurately than just about any pass MS has thrown all yr.

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