Rex Ryan always has a few interesting things to say about his line-up during training camp press conferences. Today was no exception, as he revealed:
- Muhammad Wilkerson will start at defensive end from day one, which we will get into a little more in a separate article.
- The kick return and punt return jobs are both wide open with Jeremy Kerley, Kyle Wilson, and Joe McKnight all expected to compete. Antonio Cromartie could also be used in late game situations on kick return.
- And finally, when talking about linebacker Jamaal Westerman, he said the following – “It’s time to unleash him. I see Westerman as a DPR: Designated Pass Rusher.”
Westerman will now be entering his third year with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers University. He impressed in his first year with his versatility of being able to line-up at defensive end, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker. He recorded a sack in his first professional game against the Houston Texans and finished his rookie campaign playing in 14 games, ending up with 10 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries. Last season, with Jason Taylor on the roster and due to some injuries, Westerman only played in 6 games and recorded 7 tackles.Unfortunately, his most memorable play from last year was a roughing the punter penalty against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
At the moment, it doesn’t look like the Jets are going to add a veteran linebacker which means Westerman will be the top backup to Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, along with be featured as a pass rusher in multiple packages. Is Rex Ryan expecting too much from Westerman, a player with 1 career sack or he is right to gamble on giving a young player with potential a bigger role?
Westerman is one of the handful of players who need to improve substantially from last year if the Jets are going to remain a Super Bowl contender. You can include Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight, and Wayne Hunter in that category of players who can compensate for the Jets technically not looking as good on paper as last year, by stepping up.