Westhoff Unveils New Strategy for Kick Returns

ORCHARD PARK NY - OCTOBER 03: Mike Westhoff Special Teams Coordinator of the New York Jets talks to his players during a time out against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 3 2010 in Orchard Park New York. The Jets won 38-14. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Mike Westhoff is smarter than the average bear. The Jets special teams guru, in his eleventh season with the organization, always finds ways to think outside the box.

Tonight's preseason game was no different, as Westhoff decided to employ a new strategy, attempting to mitigate the effects of the new (awful) kickoff rule. 

Mike Florio was on his A-Game tonight, and pointed out Westhoff's strategy:

He lined up the returner line up seven yards deep in the end zone.  If the returner can catch the ball while moving forward, he was instructed to take the ball out.  If you have to back up for the kick, then take the touchback.

In a nutshell, Westhoff is looking to implement a "rule of thumb" here. The return man has the opportunity to gain momentum by starting deep in the end zone. And if the ball is just too deep, the player takes a knee. I like the idea. 

This is important because we know how big of an asset Westhoff's unit has been for the Jets the last couple of seasons. Two years ago, the Jets used it to springboard into the postseason by shocking the Colts, and last season, to keep teams on their toes throughout the year. And the new kickoff rule could curtail some of the unit's explosiveness.

In looking at the Jets schemes, both offensively and defensively, field position is crucial -- and looking at "70-80 yards to go" more often than not is a tough obstacle to overcome. "Ground and Pound" is built on manageable field position and manageable downs.

The Jets are still a three-headed monster: doing it with offense, defense and special teams. They are just hoping to find ways to operate even with the new kickoff rule in place. 

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