Saying Jamaal Westerman is low-key and humble is about as bold as saying center Nick Mangold has a good sense of humor. But Westerman quietly understands that with the injury to linebacker Calvin Pace, he'll be seeing plenty of action in the Jets' final preseason tuneup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's going to be fun for the guys that aren't starting," Westerman said. "You get the opportunity to go out there and play and go and show what you can do. Hopefully we play well, hopefully the whole defense plays well enough to win. Just go out there and play hard, that's the biggest thing. Now it's time to take everything that you've learned throughout camp and get better and just play."
The 6'3", 255-pound Rutgers product has been notable in his second summer with the Jets. He's made eight tackles in three preseason games, including a second-quarter, third-down sack of Carolina starter Matt Moore, and will most likely get much more playing time in Philadelphia on Thursday. Head coach Rex Ryan has been impressed by Westerman's development.
"He's done a tremendous job. He's really stood out," Ryan said at SUNY Cortland. "When we put the third group — some guys call them the AYO, the All You Others — out there, the guy dominated. He's doing well. He's doing well on special teams as well."
Westerman knows that Ryan's last sentence will be a key to his chances of making the team and being an impact player. Special teams make or break many players' careers in the NFL, which is why he has sought out all of the chances he can. From the punt return team to the kickoff coverage team, he wants to make an impact and prove his worth.
"Hopefully I just take the opportunities that I'm getting and make the best of it," Westerman said. "Get my technique down perfect, play hard, work hard and just try to get better because there's a lot of guys there —- Bryan Thomas, Jason Taylor. Just take the opportunities whenever I get the chance to be on the field to play hard and go hard and really step my game up."
For at least the opener, Thomas and Taylor will be the starters. But until Pace returns, the Jets will need depth at that spot and it will be up to Westerman among others to provide it. The 2009 undrafted free agent feels more comfortable in his second season under Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
"You've got JT and you've got Westerman out there," Thomas said. "Those guys know the position. They've been doing it all training camp. Now it's just going to be a rotation."
With a workman's attitude and a personality that flies under the radar, Westerman has continued to become one with the defensive playbook in order to stop thinking and start playing.
"That's one thing I'm trying to work towards, where it is second nature," Westerman said. "Where I see the offense's formation and I know what to do. I hear a call and I don't have to think about it. I know I'm doing this."