Now in his third year in the NFL, it is officially “Go Time” for Jets defensive end Jamaal Westerman.
While much of head coach Rex Ryan’s time during his daily press conferences has been spent answering questions about free agent signings or the AFC East horserace with the Patriots, Ryan has consistently been talking about the emergence of Westerman. The strange part is that most of his talk about Westerman is unsolicited.
The former Rutgers product is suddenly part of the buzz of camp — a buzz built by his head coach.
“I’m excited to see Westerman, we need to give him an opportunity. He does a great job,” Ryan said. “Every week he played the best pass rusher on the scout team and he’d do a good job so I’m excited to see him.”
There is a lot of chatter around a player who has just 13 combined tackles over the past two years and was a mainly a special teams performer until this past offseason. Part of the reason why he was slow to emerge from the pack is that Westerman was mired behind Vernon Gholston, a former first-round pick who was a pet project of the Jets. Despite the fact he didn’t deserve to play — even based off of his mediocre performances at practice — Gholston was stationed on the two-deep as the Jets tried to justify his high draft-pick status and hefty rookie contract.
But when push came to shove, it was Westerman who was on the active roster for all three of last year’s playoff games with Gholston made unavailable. Now with Gholston out of New York and after an offseason of tough conditioning, the Canadian-born Westerman is set to make an impact.
“They say third time’s the charm and this is my third season so it really is time for me to step up and begin contributing,” Westerman told Metro. “I feel much more comfortable with the defense, more comfortable with the guys and like I know what I need to do now to take the next step.”
Westerman is now up to 255 pounds, ideal as he begins to make an impact at the defensive end position. With the line taking some hits this offseason through the retirement of Kris Jenkins and the loss of Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce, Westerman is now being called on to step-up from special teams to a full-time contributor.
“For me, it really isn’t anything different. The past two years I’m going up against Brick [D’Brickashaw Ferguson] or Damien Woody and having to prove myself. Each day, I went up against some of the best offensive linemen in this league,” Westerman said. “Now, I’m being asked to take on a larger role and help the team more and more in the game. I feel like the coaching staff has prepared me well for this moment.”
Westerman has flown under the radar his whole career, dating back to high school. Under recruited, he committed to Rutgers and after a redshirt season immediately began to make an impact. His five years “On the Banks” saw him finish with 141 tackles and he ranks third all-time on the Rutgers sack list.
Now, he’s looking towards a new challenge as the formerly undrafted free agent gets set to take on a larger role.
“We lost some pretty good guys along this defensive line. Guys who contributed a lot, were Pro Bowl players. It means I have some pretty big shoes to fill,” Westerman said. “It’s up to me now, I will never be more ready than this.”