Sunday will mark the end of a remarkable 30-year pro coaching career for Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. Westhoff held his final in-season news conference Thursday at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and said he won’t forget the past 12 seasons he’s spent with the Green & White.
“I’m happy and proud to be at the place that I am in my career,” Westhoff said. “Few of us get to leave this business of our own volition, and I’m able to do that.”
The ST coach came to the Jets in 2001 after having spent the prior 15 seasons in the same role with the Miami Dolphins and before that, three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, his son John will join him on the sidelines for his final game.
“I’m very proud that he wants to share that last game with me,” Westhoff said.
This season hasn’t been the Jets’ best on special teams and Westhoff accepts full responsibility for the struggles and disappointments.
“It’s a very sporadic, kind of crazy year,” he said, “because at some points there were just some excellent things that took place this year that I was involved in, and then some things that were at the opposite end of the scale.”
Westhoff said he is pleased that the Jets lead the NFL with 27 inside-the-20 kickoffs (Cincinnati is second with 24). He’s also glad Joe McKnight will likely finish with the league’s fourth-best kickoff-return average and that Jeremy Kerley may finish in the top 10 in punt-return average. But as a whole, his unit hasn’t performed up to its normal high standard and the players aren’t afraid to admit it.
“This year hasn’t quite been how we’ve wanted to send him out because we’ve always been in the top in special teams,” safety Eric Smith said.
Second-year linebacker Nick Bellore had hardly played special teams before arriving to the NFL, but credits Westhoff for teaching him the ropes.
“The attention to detail that he demands I think is really excellent and is probably why he’s had so much success,” Bellore said. “Things have to be done exactly how he wants them done and it can be tough at times, but if you do it right, you can see how it works.”
What Smith says he’ll miss most about Westhoff is sitting in on special teams meetings.
“Some of the things he says in the meetings are hilarious,” No. 33 said. “Every day it’s something new. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. It’s hilarious.”
Westhoff said he hasn’t spent much time reflecting this past week but will do a little when he’s been alone.
“In the middle of the night, when I wake up, then all of the sudden it will dawn on me,” he said. “But for the most part, no.”
Following his retirement, Westhoff plans to return to Florida and hopes to transition into a media career, possibly as a football television analyst.
“I think that today’s fan is becoming a more and more educated fan,” he said. “Television does a great job of that.”
And from Westhoff’s count, Sunday he will be coaching his 625th NFL game. Bellore said the unit owes it to its leader to put together one last effective outing.
“I think we’ve underperformed this year,” Bellore said, “and the best thing we can do is send him out with a win and make some big plays on special teams.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Eric Smith, John Westhoff, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, special teams
Posted in John Holt | 25 Comments »
For Josh Bush, it seems like only yesterday when he was gearing up for his first NFL training camp.
Now it’s the middle of December and his rookie season is reaching its final stages.
“It’s gone by very fast,” Bush said Thursday inside the Jets locker room. “People were telling me stories about the rookie wall and this and that, but it’s flying by to me.”
Unlike his teammate, wide receiver Stephen Hill, Bush said of the rookie wall: “I haven’t experienced it.”
The Jets’ sixth-round draft selection described his first year in the pros as fun but admitted things could be better if the team had a winning record. The Green & White are 6-7 but still have a chance to end their season with an above-.500 record as three regular-season games remain.
One week ago, Bush made one of the best plays of his young NFL career during the Jets’ 17-10 win Jacksonville. On the second-half kickoff, he beat his block and took down returner Jordan Todman with a low tackle at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. The play seemed to ignite the entire team as the Jets defense immediately forced a three-and-out and minutes later the Jets offense scored their first TD of the afternoon when RB Shonn Greene rushed for a 1-yard score to cap a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
“We just went over it in a special teams meeting,” Bush said of the play. “We put something new in. Coach Westhoff drew up a great play. I was really coming down, stacking up behind Antonio [Allen], and I read it. Nick [Bellore] was playing off of me, and the hole just opened up.”
No. 32 said he was only doing his job on the play, but acknowledged it was nice to see the play executed properly.
“We definitely practiced it,” he said. “That was exactly what we practiced.”
Bush, a safety on defense, has played a significant role on special teams this season. He played on 15 special teams plays against Jacksonville and on 168 this season, 44% of the Jets’ total ST plays. And his tackle of Todman was his 13th on kick and punt coverage this season, tying him for the team lead with Nick Bellore and fellow rookie Demario Davis.
Yet he never played special teams in high school and his only action on specials at Wake Forest occurred early his freshman year.
Although he hasn’t seen much action at his natural position, he has valued the opportunity to learn from coordinator Mike Westhoff, now in what he’s said is his final season as an NFL coach. Bush said what Westhoff has taught him most is that focusing on the task at hand can lead to successful things getting done. Yet early on, Bush said the ST coach had his doubts on whether he could ever be a special teams factor.
“He honestly told me when they drafted me that he didn’t think I’d be able to play special teams,” Bush said. “So just to hear that from him, and him telling me that I’ve been doing a good job, that’s just a positive.”
The Jets rank eighth in opponents’ kickoff-return average and are 13th with opponents’ drives averaging starts at their 21.5 yard-line. At the same time, they lead the league with 22 opponents’ drives starting inside their own 20. While the ranking certainly isn’t despairing, Bush knows it could be better.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bush said. “But for the most part, it’s not where we want to be.”
Tennessee’s kick-return unit ranks 31st in the NFL in return average, but Bush said the Jets, in a must-win situation every week now, can’t afford to overlook main returner Darius Reynaud and the Titans.
“It’s the NFL,” Bush said. “You can’t sleep on anyone. Special teams is a very important part of the game, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”
*Special Teams Sunday
Tags: Darius Reynaud, Demario Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jordan Todman, Josh Bush, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Tennessee Titans
Posted in John Holt | 63 Comments »
If the Jets execute a fake punt every other game, does it no longer qualify as a fake?
As special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said this week in response: “I’d rather execute than trick. That’s me as a coach. I don’t think we really tricked anybody.”
But to be sure, the Jets have out-executed three opponents in the past four weeks. That’s 3-for-3 on Tim Tebow-triggered plays. The only other time in the last 30 years that the Jets have reeled off three fake punts for first downs was in 2009, when they went 4-for-4. Add in fake field goals and the only time besides ’12 and ’09 that the Green & White went 3-for-3 was in 1987. (
“We have to execute. That’s what it comes down to,” said linebacker and “tight end” Nick Bellore. “But I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing right now.”
Bellore worked in tandem with Tebow to pull off the 23-yard jump-pass conversion on fourth-and-11 at the Colts 40 on Sunday. Who’d a’ thunk it that Nick, who’s picked off a few passes over his years in the game but doesn’t remember ever catching a pass, would have gotten wide-open, taken TT’s pass flawlessly, and then motored and leaped for 14 yards after the catch?
“YAC. That’s what they brought me here for,” Bellore said Friday.
Westhoff said there was never a doubt in his mind that No. 54 would get it done.
“Nick’s just athletic, and when we did it in practice, he caught it well,” Coach Westy said. “I think there was one time when we did it in practice that he didn’t report. Now our officials caught it and they were going to throw the flag, and then he was begging them — he knew I would kill him — he said, ‘Please don’t tell him, don’t tell him.’ So that did happen, but no, I have a lot of confidence in Nick.”
The confidence in the first two plays was of a different sort. Tebow kept for 5 yards on fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25 at Miami, then two weeks later he bulled ahead for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Jets 24.
For both runs Tebow plowed off his left side with the short snap from Tanner Purdum, with the help of some strong blocking from Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga and Konrad Reuland. I’s all in a day’s work for Reuland, a tight end, but Mauga (since IR-ed) and Mac, they’re used to shedding blocks, not blocking sheds.
“It’s a little different,” McIntyre said, “but it’s pretty easy, just get off the ball as hard as you can and block the guy.”
Easy to say when it’s the Dolphins’ punt-block team, but the Texans smelled a rat and sent out their first defense to try to stop the potential primetime fake. The 255-pound McIntyre found himself going up against 284-pound starting DE Antonio Smith.
“It was crazy for a second, but there was a big bubble next to him and Tim found the bubble. He’s given me a little props for my blocks,” Mac said. “Running these fakes is great in the fact that we can help extend the drive. That’s an awesome feeling.”
Indeed, the Jets turned a three-and-out series into a 15-play field goal drive against the Dolphins, another three-and-out into a seven-play drive vs. Houston, and Bellore’s beautiful catch-and-run turned a six-play punt possession into an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown march vs. Indy.
Dare we say a drive-extending out-execution against the Patriots might be extremely helpful as the Jets compete up at Gillette Stadium with the Pats? OK, we dare not. And as Bellore reminded:
“Against New England, it’ll be tough. I’m not saying the other teams we ran our plays against weren’t tough, but we’re playing a lot of really, really good special teams units this season.”
But then as Westhoff reminded reporters on Thursday, “I’d run more of ‘em than that if we could. We have them up all the time. Many times on fakes you catch someone totally unprepared. That really has not happened too much with us, especially after we’ve run them, because people now know and they’re going to gear up for it.
“But we still think we can do it.”
Malone’s Monster Game
Kudos to Malone for his five-punt, 52.0-yard gross, 48.0 net game vs. the Colts. The net is actually a franchise mark of sorts, equaling the best net in a game, minimum of four punts, by a Jet since 1976. Brian Hansen previously held that distinction alone with his five punts in the Astrodome against the Houston Oilers on Dec. 24,1994.
“Last week, his first punt we were disappointed in — he tried to muscle it,” Westhoff said of a ball that Malone told me was blown out of his hand a bit by the early Meadowlands gusts and still hopped out of bounds for a 50-yard gross and net. “After that I thought he was outstanding. He’s got a very strong leg, a powerful leg. I think he’s got a lot of future ahead of him. Now he’s got a lot of things to do to work out his technique, his drops, to get all those things consistent, but he’s worked at it very well.”
Westhoff is certain the Patriots will have Wes Welker returning punts Sunday, so if Malone’s got a bunch more of those 5.13-second hangtimes in that powerful leg (that’s my unofficial average for his last four punts of the day), it will help Ellis Lankster and ‘Zaiah Trufant to keep WW thinking fair catch and help the Jets in the all-important field position battle.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Garrett McIntyre, Indianapolis Colts, Josh Mauga, Konrad Reuland, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Bellore, Robert Malone, Tim Tebow, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 19 Comments »
Here are my first-half tweets for Jets-Colts at MetLife Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Jets gameday captains: G Brandon Moore, TE Dustin Keller, G Caleb Schlauderaff, LB Demario Davis, DT Daniel Muir.
#RL Jets win opening coin toss, defer. It’s only 2nd toss they’ve won this season, they’ve deferred both times (last week vs. HOU).
#RL Jets are 11-12 in games in which they’ve won the opening coin toss and deferred under Rex Ryan since ’09.
#RL Adam Vinatieri 20-yd FG is good, Colts lead 3-0 with 6:02 left in 1st qtr. Vinatieri career vs. Jets: 38-for-41 FGs (92.7%).
#RL Shonn Greene bursts up middle for 21-yd rush, his longest of the season.
#RL Sanchez-to-Stephen Hill for third-down completion to 10 yds. Hill’s first catch since opening day.
#RL Jets have 57 rushing yds in 1st qtr, their most in any quarter in the last 11 games, or since 1st qtr, Game 11, vs BUF, last year.
#RL Sanchez-to-Stephen Hill for 6-yd touchdown. Hill’s 3rd pro TD catch, 1st since opening day. Jets lead 7-3 with 14:13 left in 1st half.
#RL Aaron Maybin personal foul wipes out Antonio Cromartie’s 2nd INT-return TD of the season but Jets have ball on Colts 35.
#RL Shonn Greene on second-and-a-foot goes 10 yds for TD. Jets’ longest TD run since Greene went 25 yds @ WAS in Game 12 last year.
#RL Jets’ 11-point lead at 14-3 is their largest lead in the last 18 quarters, or since the final quarter of their opening-day win over BUF.
#RL Antonio Cromartie has second INT-return TD this game wiped out by a penalty–his own pass interference on Reggie Wayne.
#RL Jets rookie S Antonio Allen credited with sack of Andrew Luck on 1st down. Allen’s first pro game, first pro sack.
#RL Adam Vinatieri from 50 yds out–good. That’s his 2nd career 50-yard FG vs. Jets. 1st came in 2010 AFC Wild Card Game @ IND.
#RL Shonn Greene carries of 19 (from Tim Tebow handoff) and 6 puts Jets over 100 rush yds with 4:43 left in 1st half.
#RL Tim Tebow fake punt, pass to NICK BELLORE. 1st career reception for Bellore, first-and-10 at Colts 17, 2-min warning.
#RL Jets’ first fake-punt completion since 12.13.09, Brad Smith to Eric Smith for 27 yds at TB.
#RL Sanchez-to-Dustin Keller for 6 yds. Keller’s first reception since opening day vs. BUF.
#RL Another Sanchez-to-Hill TD 5-yd TD pass. This one to Jason Hill. Folk PAT gives Jets 21-3 lead with 27 seconds left in half.
#RL Jets’ 1st 3-offensive-TDs first half since Game 13 last year vs. KC. Jets go in with 21-6 lead at halftime.
#RL Jets have first 100-yd rush game in last 5 games, with a half to go. Shonn Greene: 14 carries, 91 yds. Sanchez 9-for-13, 62 yds, 2 TDs.
Tags: Antonio Allen, Antonio Cromartie, Indianapolis Colts, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Nick Bellore, Shonn Greene, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 51 Comments »
With his second kickoff-return TD as a pro and with his average again inching upward toward 30.0 yards per return, Joe McKnight was asked this week how good he can be as an NFL return man.
“Devin Hester’s the best now. Hopefully I can have my name next to his or around his somewhere. That’d be great,” McKnight said. He went on to explain that when he was an eighth-grader in River Ridge, La., he already had some notion that he’d like to follow in Hester’s fast footsteps some day.
“I used to look up to him. He wore No. 4 and I wore No. 4,” Joe recalled. “I always wanted to go to the University of Miami. I was a big Clinton Portis fan and a big Devin Hester fan.”
Interesting that McKnight knew at that tender age that he wanted to be like a top UM return man and a top ‘Canes RB. The storyline a few weeks back was that he was being made into a (temporary) defensive back and that he thought Rex Ryan and the Jets were saying he might not be wanted as a back.
Not true, said Rex. For the time being, McKnight is back at RB and got his most plays (9) and touches (4) of the season on offense on Monday night. And he made like a superback on his 100-yard return down the left sideline to juice up the Jets and the fans for their close-but-no-cigar 23-17 loss.
In fact, ST coordinator Mike Westhoff is serious in saying that he thinks in terms of running the ball when he draws up those now famous kickoff returns of his.
“All of our plays are based off of running plays,” Westhoff said. “That’s what they look like and what they should look like, where we’re going to try to double and trap and wall and run a counter off of that. It’s very similar to what an offense would run on an off-tackle play. We blocked it well. We blocked it very well. And we hit it.”
Indeed, McKnight took the “handoff” from Houston kickoff man Shayne Graham at his goal line and proceeded to use his speed and cuts to get the Jets back in the game. First game the double team by his two-man wedge, Garrett McIntyre and Konrad Reuland, on the Texans’ Bryan Braman, with McIntyre then sliding up and taking out Troy Nolan. Downfield a little further, Nick Bellore and Bilal Powell applied the second double-team, boxing up Jesse Nading.
Simultaneously, to McKnight’s right, Ellis Lankster neutralized Shiloh Keo and new signee Lex Hilliard continued his impressive first night in green and white by delaying Mister Alexander’s outside rush toward the ball.
McKnight slalomed past through the “gate” opened by Reuland and Lankster, then exploded past the diving Alexander and stiff-armed Graham. Suddenly it was a footrace with rookie safety DeVier Posey. McKnight won, squeezing past Posey along the left sideline and curling the ball inside the pylon as he dived into the end zone.
“I felt like I had to make some plays. The first couple of games I was disappointed that I didn’t get to break anything,” he said. “But I didn’t want to try to press the issue and go out and look for stuff. I just had to be patient and wait till they came to me.”
And while he was waiting, he was making a few things happen elsewhere on teams. He also is a part of the Jets’ kickoff cover team that also features Lankster and ‘Zaiah Trufant as their advance team. It was No. 25 you saw blurring by on your TV screen, in part because of his speed and in part because of a shove in the back from Braman that started the Texans out at their 4-yard line late in the opening period.
McKnight’s always gives his blockers their props — “It’s a give-and-take,” he said. “You give me something, I give you something.”
He means that literally. Last year he dished out an iPad and some high-end headphones. For this return, he said he’s planning on presenting a 50″ TV from a recent interview to either Reuland or Bellore.
And he wouldn’t mind continuing to play early Santa in the weeks ahead. Might the Colts’ cover team be in danger? They’re 25th in opponents’ kickoff-return average.
“We got some good double-teams this week,” he said, respectfully but confidently, “and next week we’re going to try to do the same.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Bilal Powell, Ellis Lankster, Garrett McIntyre, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, Konrad Reuland, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore
Posted in Randy Lange | 37 Comments »
Today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center was kind of a cooling-down day from Rex Ryan’s special “Bloody Nose Wednesday, Special Thursday Edition” that he conducted the day before.
“We put in an extra period Wednesday, a little eight-minute period,” said the Jets head coach of the idea suggested by OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo to fire up the team in general and two areas in particular, the rushing offense and the run defense. “It was ones vs. ones, your base power boss running game against the defense. It was all runs, one play-actoin. We put our guys out there, put the ball down and said, ‘Let’s have at it.’
“I challenged our guys to really compete against each other, and the only way you get better is when you go full-speed against each other. And that’s what we did. It was an outstanding period, to the point where I’m like, ‘Oh, man, is that it?’ The period was over and I wished we could keep going.”
There are obvious restrictions, both CBA and coaching-wise, on having slam-bam practices like this. Only one full-pads practice is allowed per week, so Thursday was it for the Jets. It wasn’t tackling to the ground — that’s a sure way to get some more in-season injuries — but it was close.
“The backs, the quarterbacks, the receivers, we took care of them,” said rookie DT Quinton Coples. “But in the trenches, it was a dirty world.”
“We just had to get back to fundamentals,” said LB Nick Bellore. “Sometimes you get caught up in keeping each other healthy, but sometimes you’ve just got to go full-speed.”
“I don’t think it’s fun for nobody,” said Coples. “It’s old-school football, best man wins every rep.”
While it wasn’t necessarily fun, it seems the players as well as Ryan and his coaches knew something had to be tried, to help the OL work on staying on its blocks, the DL to get off blocks and cut down on the coaches’ count of 17 missed tackles vs. San Francisco, and equally important to jolt the team from any lingering 49ers doldrums in time to tackle the undefeated Texans on Monday night.
Ryan said the eight minutes of pad-popping intensity was worth it.
“It was just the focus, guys really competing against each other, knowing that’s what we have to do to get better,” he said. “If you’re not working hard, you’re not going to get better. So it’s a win-win situation. When you put that kind of emphasis on it, you’re taking care of each other by competing at a 100 percent level against each other.”
Will it achieve the desired effects? We’ll see the results in three nights’ time.
We checked in with RT Austin Howard the other week about the music he listens to as he warms up to play in a game. He gave a few names of his favorite old-school pregame performers — Sam Cooke and Marcel Howard.
That Cooke guy we’ve heard of. But Marcel who?
Austin’s brother, of course.
“Marcel lives in Chicago and one of his hobbies is putting together beats, tracks,” Howard said. “He sends them to me usually Friday night or Saturday night when I get to the team hotel.”
A Windy City musician, then?
“It’s just one of his hobbies, but he has worked with some artists,” he said. “He does all instrumental music. He has his own unique style, not specifically hip-hop, whatever he feels.”
If Howard appears to be feeling it against the Texans’ J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and company, we could credit the all-in-the-family tunes that got his mind right in the hours before opening kickoff.
Friday is like Thursday this week when it comes to injury reports.
And just as they have most weeks this year, they’ve added another player to their report as the week has gone on. Today it’s RB-KOR(-DB?) Joe McKnight, who was sent home with an illness and did not participate in practice. He’s the 25th Jet listed this week.
There are three other changes from Thursday’s list. LBs Bart Scott (toe) and Bryan Thomas (hamstring) were limited after not working yesterday. And S LaRon Landry (heel) spent his usual middle practice day of the week as a DNP.
Ryan was non-committal about his non-participants, in particular TE Dustin Keller and WR Stephen Hill, both sidelined with hamstring issues. “The fact that they’re now out another day of practice isn’t good,” he said, adding, “I know they’re making improvements, they’re making strides.”
The Texans added LG Wade Smith (knee) as a DNP today. Along with C Chris Myers (back, full) and G Antoine Caldwell (ankle/knee, limited), their three interior OL starters are on the list. So are three of their biggest skill players: RB Arian Foster (hamstring, full), WR Andre Johnson (groin, limited) and TE Owen Daniels (thigh, limited). They’re listing 17 players on their latest report.
Mangold Jersey App Opp
Laura Clemente tells us that there’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity ahead for all you Nick Mangold fans to get a No. 74 jersey signed by none other than No. 74 himself. If you’re not at Monday night’s Jets-Texans game at MetLife Stadium, then you’ll no doubt be tuned in to ESPN. While you’re watching, check into the game with the Viggle app via your Smartphone or iPad for that opportunity to win the jersey. You can download the Viggle app from the App Store or Google Play.
Tags: Austin Howard, Dave DeGuglielmo, Houston Texans, Nick Bellore, Nick Mangold, Quinton Coples, Rex Ryan, San Francisco 49ers
Posted in Randy Lange | 28 Comments »
When a team is scuffling, and especially when a team is scuffling without one of its main men, it will take everyone on the roster to get the job done and keep the wins coming.
Such as Sunday at Miami, when the Jets’ kickoff and punt coverage teams put together one of the finest field position games in recent team history.
“Eight times we had our opponents inside the 20, and five times inside the 10 — that’s a lot,” special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff told newyorkjets.com today. “They’re off to a solid start. We can cover.”
Eleven of Miami’s 13 possessions began after a Jets punt or kickoff, and the Dolphins’ average start on those drives was their 14.5-yard line. Add in the possessions after their two interceptions and for the game the ‘Fins’ average drive start was their 17.8-yard line.
That’s the Jets’ best opponents’ drive start in the last 22 seasons. The only better game since 1990 was their 17-12 victory over Houston in the Astrodome in ’90, a game that featured a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ken O’Brien to Al Toon and the only individual “trifecta” fumble-recovery touchdown by a front-seven player in franchise history when rookie DT Darrell Davis sacked Warren Moon, forced the fumble and recovered it in the end zone. The Oilers’ drive start was their 17.0.
On Sunday the Jets needed every spare yard since Miami mounted six marches of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns and four for field goal attempts.
“Field position, to me, I look at last year, when we finished first in kickoff returns and I think we were sixth in [kickoff] coverage. That adds up to seven and I think that led the league,” Westhoff said. “It was pretty close between us and San Francisco but they had 40 touchbacks and we had 12. We had to cover a heck of a lot more, yet we were still first. I’ve been able to do that a lot of times.”
Unlike opening day, when Nick Folk had six touchbacks, he had only one at Sun Life Stadium. But Folk did put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone. Then Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Josh Bush and Joe McKnight made tackles, and the kick coverage also forced a pair of illegal blocks.
Then there was Robert Malone, who had his best day yet as the Jets’ punter. He hit six punts to the tune of a 45.7-yard gross — very good — and a 42.5 net — excellent. His four inside-the-20 punts is tied for fifth-most in a game by a Jet since 1991. No Jets qualifying punter has ever finished a season with a 40-yard net average, and Malone’s got 13 games to go, but his net after three games is at 40.0.
On punt coverage, Bellore had another tackle, as did Isaiah Trufant and rookie Demario Davis. “Zaiah” also downed a Malone punt at the Miami 5, the Dolphins’ fair-caught two others, and yet another illegal block was flagged against Miami.
“I think Malone’s off to a good start. He’s got a big, powerful leg that I like, and a very powerful, explosive lower body,” Westhoff said. “Now we just have to keep working with him on his timing and technique and all those little things. But he can bomb the ball. He’s done a real good job.”
As head coach Rex Ryan said Monday following his announcement of the severity of Darrelle Revis’ knee injury, “It’s going to take everybody we have, pulling together like we are and just keep competing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
And everybody includes the hidden-yardage crew, not just the kickers and their coverage teams but the return teams led by McKnight and Jeremy Kerley, and the offense and the defense turning very good field position into great position if not points.
The numbers show how important that can be. In the eight games since ’90 that the Jets have held opponents to lower than an average drive start of less than their 20.0, their record is 7-1. And in the 60 games that opponents’ drive start has been lower than 25.0, the Jets’ record is 48-12 (.800). Field position is one major area in which the Jets can help optimize their opportunities in the wake of having to spend the rest of their season on Reeve-Less Island.
Tags: Al Toon, Astrodome, Darrell Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Ken O'Brien, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 68 Comments »
In a possibly closely fought game like Sunday’s Jets-Dolphins game could be, Mike Westhoff and his special teams could be a difference-maker.
If Westhoff, primed to retire from coaching after this season, is distracted by nostalgia, the game could turn against the Jets. After all, before “Coach Westy” reached legendary status among NFL ST gurus with the Jets, he got his pro coaching career really cranking with 1½ decades guiding the Dolphins’ specialists.
“I had a great run there, I had 15 years there. I enjoyed it,” Westhoff said this week. “I was part of a very good football team, a group that started back when Joe Robbie was the owner, then through Wayne Huizenga, Coach Don Shula and then Jimmy Johnson and being a part of all that, it was a lot of fun. I know exactly something that I will think of. I can still look in the stands and see the exact seats my family sat in. That, I’m sure, will have a certain feel to it.”
Is Iron Mike turning soft on us? Not likely. Because while he acknowledges those memories and the dwindling number of games ahead for him, he isn’t built to be sidetracked by those thoughts.
“Colin Powell wrote in a chapter in his book that when it’s time to get off the train, that doesn’t mean it’s time to get off the train and jump in the river. You get off the train and get on another train,” Westhoff argued. “I do not dwell on it one bit. I don’t ever think this is my last this or that, I don’t. I’m so concerned to do what we have to do with this group of people to win the next game.”
His players get it. Nick Bellore said the Jets’ special teams have kicked around Westhoff’s return to Miami one more time this week, but it’s not Topic A for them.
“We talk about this group,” Bellore said of the Dolphins. “They’re one of the better groups we’re going to face in the NFL, one of the more elite groups. They’ve got a really good kicker, punter and long-snapper. And their teams are built around their linebackers.”
One of those linebackers is a familiar name to Jets fans. Jason Trusnik began his career as a gung-ho free agent LB out of Ohio Northern who made a number of tackles on Westhoff’s Jets special units of 2007-08. He went on to Cleveland with Chansi Stuckey in the trade for Braylon Edwards in ’09. Then he moved to Miami in ’10.
Now Trusnik and his teammates will try to rein in Joe McKnight on kickoff returns and Jeremy Kerley on punt returns, while Bellore and company will have to deal with first-year double threat Marcus Thigpen, fourth in the NFL in punt returns with a 21.4-yard average (just ahead of Kerley’s 18.5 in fifth) and eighth in the league in kickoff returns at 27.4 (ahead of McKnight’s 27.2 in 10th).
What can the Jets do about Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter and booming punter Brandon Fields? Well, block a kick or hurry a snap or two, and also keep up in the field position battle with Nick Folk’s kickoffs and Robert Malone’s punts.
And they’ll do that with the help of the X’s and O’s drawn up by the undistracted Westhoff.
“For me, the only happiness, to be honest, that I ever really have on a play is if 11 guys do it right,” said Westhoff. “When I grade a play, if I have 11 pluses, then I’m happy. Anything else, I’m really not. It’s not like I’m miserable — they think I am sometimes, but I’m not. But I’m always striving to get that ‘How can you do it?’ When you’re occupied that way, I don’t think about much else, I really don’t.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Colin Powell, Jason Trusnik, Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 25 Comments »
Updated, 6:25 p.m. ET
The gassers of two weeks ago, in response to some practice brawls up at SUNY Cortland, have almost been forgotten. But in a way, maybe they were the start of something else entirely that must be remembered.
“The one thing I’m concerned with, and I was pushing Darrelle about it, is just that we have to be in unbelievable shape,” head coach Rex Ryan said at this morning’s news conference. “We were talking how I think this can be a really good defense, and I mean a really good defense, but to make sure that we’re on top of everything, keep our communication going, make sure we’re in great shape. And I think that’s something we can do.”
Revis confirmed that for the defense especially, the conditioning they stressed in the offseason program through the extra wind sprints players are doing on their own are all being done with the purpose of combatting the hurryup offenses they’ve been facing and will see again.
“Last year we saw it a lot, especially with the Patriots,” the corner said. “During those games, you can see most of the time they were in empty, five wides. We’ve got to be prepared at all times. Whatever teams throw at us, we’ve got to be well-positioned.”
“It’s trending,” added LB Bart Scott. “You’ve always had to deal with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and now look at [Matt] Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger and a lot of people using that ‘muddle huddle.’ And you see some of the college guys, Cam [Newton], in the hurryup and spread offense and kind of looking over to the sideline. It’s something we have to prepare for just in case we get it. It can’t do anything but work for us.”
LB Calvin Pace added that “a good thing about having a good veteran group is that the guys take it upon themselves to try to get to the ball, overdo it, try to get your conditioning done as much in practice as you can. It’s tough to go out and practice and then run gassers and then still have the whole rest of the day in meetings. I think the ideal way is just to try to push yourself as much as you can in practice in preparation for your Buffalo, New England, continuously bring that high tempo.”
Add Miami to the no-huddle mix. And look who the first two division rivals are on the schedule: the Bills at home on opening day, Sept. 9, and the Dolphins in Miami in Week 3, which is likely to be a typically hot South Florida late-September day.
All of which spoke well to this week’s return to late August practices in North Jersey. This afternoon’s session on the Atlantic Health Training Center grass was arguably was the hottest of the year, with heat-index temperatures in the upper 80s, little wind, and the session coming in at a Mangini-esque 2 hours, 25 minutes.
Temps are expected to remain in the upper 80s Thursday and Friday, both practices open to the public, before the Jets run into and attempt to run with Cam Newton and his Panthers in Sunday night’s NBC game.
For Ellis, a Load Lifted
Kenrick Ellis said today that one last big distraction, whether he would miss games for his recent legal problems in Virginia, was lifted when the NFL said Tuesday it would not suspend the second-year DT.
“To be honest, I was so focused on trying to compete here in camp, that was in the back of my mind,” Ellis told me this afternoon. “But yes, it is a relief that that part of it is taken care of and I can really focus on football now, focus on getting better every day, and doing what I’m supposed to do so I can get reps here.”
Bellore: Back or ‘Backer?
The Nick Bellore saga continues this week. Today the second-year linebacker and special-teams leader donned white jersey No. 46 for the entire practice. That’s what as in offense, as in fullback, the position he lined up at during one period late in the Cortland phase of training camp.
“I was with the offense the whole time today, starting with meetings, and I’m staying with the offense the whole week,” Bellore said. “It’s fun. I can’t complain. It gets me on the field.”
It also, perhaps in a small way, will improve the odds of achieving something that’s probably on the Bellore Bucket List.
“An embarrassing fact about me is that I’ve never scored a touchdown — ever,” he said. “I never made it to the promised land.”
Bellore hasn’t given up his green No. 54 jersey or his defensive playbook. But the experiment continues.
WR Jeremy Kerley is back working in team drills, while WR Santonio Holmes is still wearing the red jersey but did some 7-on-7 work. Both are “maybes” for Carolina on Sunday night. Definitely out for the Panthers: NT Sione Pouha (back), S Eric Smith (shoulder/knee), WR Chaz Schilens (ankle) and LB Ricky Sapp (ankle). … Wayne Hunter returned to practice, and he and Austin Howard split time with the ones at RT. … Pace (wisdom tooth) was also back, working on the side, and said he’ll be back in team drills Thursday.
Tags: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, Florham Park, Kenrick Ellis, Nick Bellore, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Randy Lange | 46 Comments »
It’s not anything like the great Serengeti wildebeest migration, but at today’s SUNY Cortland training camp practice, two defensive players found their way across the trench to the offensive side of the Jets ecosystem.
One we knew about. Antonio Cromartie lined up at wide receiver in 7-on-7 drills again, and this time he caught his first touchdown of camp, from third QB Greg McElroy.
“I’m just trying to get the technique part down and have fun with it,” the cornerback said about getting some times at wideout. “I’m dead serious. This is something I want to do, play both ways.”
As to the playful charge of “traitor” leveled at Cro by LB Bart Scott during the practice, he at first plead not guilty, then changed his plea.
“I feel like I’m a traitor for today,” he said, “but I can take it.”
The other defender who announced his presence on the other side of the ball when his green jersey showed up among the white offensive jerseys during red zone drills was LB Nick Bellore.
“Yes, we have been working Nick some at fullback,” head coach Rex Ryan said at his midday news conference. “He’s been staying after practice working with [RBs coach] Anthony Lynn. Sometimes you have to find depth in different ways. The same way with Cro at wide receiver. If you go into games and somebody goes down, you need to plug somebody in.”
LaRon’s Getting LaReady
Ryan said S LaRon Landry and his feet are feeling so good these days that the Jets’ trainers and doctors have accelerated his practice “pitch count.”
“We changed his schedule a little bit,” the coach said. “He practiced today when initially he would have been rehabbing again. We’re still taking care of him, but he’s feeling really good and he’s progressing along really nice.”
Landry seconded that medical opinion.
“Physically, I feel fine, I feel ready,” he said. “Each and every day I’m out there ready to go. I try to set the bar high. I’m my worst critic. I really grade myself tough.”
Next test: Well, a few more days of practice, then on to Saturday night against the Giants, whom he’s no stranger to. “I played those guys for five years,” said the former Redskin. “I know ‘em like the back of my hand. So I’m looking forward to it.”
McElroy had some other nice successes this morning, hitting TE Jeff Cumberland with a picturesque over-the-shoulder pass past DB Donnie Fletcher for a TD, then finding Josh Baker with a tight-window connection past rookie LB Demario Davis. … Before those completions, though, a McElroy pass was batted in the air and reeled in by CB Isaiah Trufant for the interception. … Baker also nabbed a Mark Sanchez pass past Calvin Pace for a left-sideline score.
Sanchez scrambled and found RB Bilal Powell just over the goal line in red zone drills and yelled, “Touchdown!” Other than that, the defense had a strong final period keeping the “O” out of the end zone. … LB David Harris continued his strong camp of pass coverage with a few more PDs.
Today’s attendance: 2,230. Many of the fans were there to help Tim Tebow celebrate his 25th birthday. … Wednesday’s 8 a.m. practice will be the final open practice in Cortland. The Jets will have a closed workout Thursday, have “rookie night” festivities later, then head south Friday morning for North Jersey. They’ll host the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night, then next week will wrap up the training camp phase of the preseason with open practices at MetLife on Tuesday night and at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Complex on Thursday and Friday mornings, Aug. 23-24.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Greg McElroy, Josh Baker, LaRon Landry, Nick Bellore, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 55 Comments »