FLORHAM PARK, NJ — With the NFL Draft fast approaching, the JetsInsider.com has devoted a lot of time to what the Jets have been doing behind the scenes and in preparations for the April 28th at Radio City Music Hall. Granted, the lockout has forced many of us to focus on the draft in fear of causing a deep state of depression among fans. But no matter the case we have taken a draft-first approach in recent weeks.

The Meet the Prospects segment has spotlighted potential picks that have been linked to the team with the 30th overall selection. We have kept you up to speed with visiting prospects as well. And when G.M. Mike Tannenbaum has spoken, we’ve listened; deciphering through the code-speak to bring you what he’s really saying between the lines.

As Tannenbaum spoke to the media Thursday, a pre-draft presser, he gave high praises to special teams coach Mike Westoff for his ability to evaluate players and see them beyond just offensive or defensive pieces.

“Mike is a great evaluator. I think [vice president of college scouting] Joey [Clinkscales] and [senior personnel adviser] Terry [Bradway] do a great job of facilitating discussions. They’ll always say, ‘Mike, how does he get into the game? Is he an R4 [fourth player on right side on special teams]?’ That’s a big tiebreaker in the middle-to-late rounds,” Tannenbaum said.

Considered one of the leading innovator’s in placing importance on special teams, Westhoff has made a career — and a damn good one, at that — off of heavy player evaluation, and a constant nose-to-the-grind work ethic. Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star Ledger highlighted how Westhoff took a forgotten aspect of football and turned it into the biggest game-changer in the sport.

Thanks to the saavy Mike Westhoff, Brad Smith and the rest of the Jets special teams unit have been regarded as one of the best in the league for the last few seasons. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

It is that same enthusiasm that Westhoff brings to the war room, and is something Tannenbaum and his team look to when making decisions in the mid-to-late rounds. A player’s ability to produce on special teams is what might separate him from another potential prospect. And that same ability may give said player the opportunity to get game-time experience while still refining the skills at his drafted position. “Throughout the draft, [Westhoff and special teams assistant Ben Kotwica] identified guys they felt could come in and contribute on teams,” Bradway said. “In certain rounds, whether it be the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh round, the special teams could be a tiebreaker when we’re dealing with two or three names on the board.”

Leading up to the next week’s draft, Westhoff and his special teams unit has evaluated over 150 players — both offensive and defensive players alike — deciding who can block, play gunner, line up in the R6 or L3, etc. With the same meticulous work ethic that he uses approaching opponent’s special teams, Westhoff takes to the draft.

“He plays a big role because he looks at linebackers, he looks at safeties. His vision for a player may be different from the secondary coach,” Clinkscales said. “When we’re trying to build this thing, he is a part of helping us get the right player that not only get to the game as part of the 45, but also if he’s got a role on defense, that’s almost a plus for a guy that’s down the line.”

After 28 years in the league this may very well be Westhoff’s, who signed a one-year deal last season, last year in the NFL. With those 28 years of experience has come a priceless wisdom on a topic that he single-handedly redefined. Hopefully for the Jets, Westhoff will devote the same time as in year’s past. However, something tells me that will never be an issue with him.


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