If Jamaal Westerman is everything Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine think he is, you can chalk up another one for the entire NFL draft machine missing a diamond in the rough.
When Westerman came to the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in the spring, the Jets head coach's eyes instinctively lit up and the D-coordinator saw the potential.
"It starts with I-told-you-so," Ryan playfully taunted reporters this week about Westerman's ongoing successful transition from college DE to pro LB at SUNY Cortland training camp. "I'm not as surprised as you guys are. He jumped out at us. We liked him in college. When he came in, I'm surprised that he could transition from having his hand in the dirt all the time to now standing up and now going back inside. I'm surprised that mentally he's been able to handle it. That's a hard thing to do, and he seems to be doing a pretty good job of that."
Then later in training camp, Pettine said on a Jets Radio 'netcast now up on newyorkjets.comthat the Jets will probably move Westerman back outside.
It makes perfect sense that the 24-year-old is eminently adaptable, since he was born in Brooklyn and raised in Fort Lauderdale and Ontario, Canada, before finding his way to the banks of the Old Raritan.
"I didn't come in really expecting anything," Westerman said. "Wherever they were going to put me, I was going to try and play hard and pick it up. As many different things you can do is always better. So I'm just going out there to play hard and pick up all the little ins and outs of every position I'm playing."
That includes special teams. Westerman was out there today with half of his teammates for the afternoon ST practice, the final session at Cortland until Sunday. Ryan said Mike Westhoff has already moved the rookie into a lot of starting groups.
Westerman is not a gloater. He hasn't talked about having it in for the 31 other teams that didn't draft or sign him. And he's put Ryan's high praise — "I'll be shocked if he doesn't make a name for himself this year" — in the proper context.
"It's good that he said it, but it doesn't really mean much in the big picture," he said. "That's good now, but tomorrow might be a totally different story, so I've just got to keep trying to get better."
Afternoon Practice Notes
Not much to highlight, with the Jets' special teamers going half-speed through situations conducted by Mike Westhoff and his staff. Lots of squib kicks, onsides kicks, safety kicks.
But T.J. Conley had a fine punt to end the 30-minute practice. Conley, who has the Aussie-style drop punt working for kicks in plus territory, nailed his last kick, which bounced high at the 2 and over the goal line. Rashad Barksdale leaped from the field of play and tapped the ball back out, where Marquice Cole downed it at the 1.
And then the players became really happy campers, because this was the last practice at Cortland Stadium before the Friday preseason opener vs. St. Louis. Wednesday is the Family Night Practice at Hofstra University (5:45 p.m. start), Thursday is the day before the game.