On July 9th, Rex Ryan commented on undrafted linebacker Jamaal Westerman
"We think he's got a future for us, the way he's going, it could be sooner than later."
Well, later in the pre-season Rex Ryan gushed as he all but confirmed officially the future of Westerman as he announced,
"He’s played himself on to this football team."
How much we will see him beyond special team assignments is unsure. However, Rex seems to think that this undrafted young man from Rutgers has a bright future ahead of him.
While at Rutgers, Jamaal Westerman sculpted a nice career for himself. He would finish his Scarlet Knights career with 26 sacks, 141 tackles and 45 tackles for loss. The 26 career sacks place him third on the Rutgers all time list of sack leaders.
Westerman lead Rutgers with 6 sacks during the 2009 season, even though he played half of the season with a torn bicep muscle. His grit and determination showed throughout the season, and he can't wait to get started. Earlier in the summer, he talked about getting drafted by the New York Jets:
"It’s not really a surprise because I worked so hard after [the injury] happened," Westerman said. "I worked hard to get myself back to where I had to be to go out there and compete and get back onto the field…I met with [head coach Rex Ryan], Mr. Tannenbaum and some of the other coaches and then I’ll meet a lot more people when I get up there and I’m just excited to get started."
One player on the New York Jets roster who knows all about being undrafted and having to prove himself from the bottom in the NFL. That man just signed a six-year, $48 million contract—ILB Bart Scott who went undrafted out of Southern Illinois in 2002.
During his first two years with the Baltimore Ravens, Scott saw the field with the first team at points, but mainly played on special teams. In 2003, his 19 special team tackles ranked second on the Baltimore Ravens team. This summer, he was one of the headline acts on the free agency stage. A waking example of hard work, perseverance and belief, can get you places.
When asked about Jamaal Westerman, Bart Scott produced a glowing reference:
"He's physical," said linebacker Bart Scott. "He's a downhill football player. I think he's special. This defense focuses on versatility. We asked him to play inside linebacker, but he can get down and play defensive end from a three-point stance. There's not too many guys that are athletic enough to stand up and handle that division that you have to have as an inside linebacker to go from guard to tailback to guards and then ask them to get down and read off the line of scrimmage and beat the tackle off a rush."
Bart Scott's significant breakthrough with the Baltimore Ravens came in 2005 when Ray Lewis was suffering with a hamstring problem. Westerman will wait for his chance, producing on special teams like Scott, and when that chance does come, like Scott he will take it and run with it.
This offseason, many questions have been asked about Vernon Gholston, a player who I fully believe in, and a player who I think will show this season why he was drafted sixth overall in the 2008 NFL draft. If, by some means that doesn't happen, then Jamaal Westerman will be waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of any playing opportunity he is given.
One thing that many people have noticed during training camp is the drive and persistence that Westerman shows in wanting to improve, in all facets of the game. Like Gholston, Westerman is being converted from a defensive end to an outside linebacker, and he seems to be taking it all in stride. He commented on the differences in the positions:
"You're on your feet a little bit more," Westerman said after Monday's morning practice. "You have to read a little bit more (from) the offensive line. You're seeing things from a different perspective on the field. I'm more in the middle (of the field) and standing up. So, you can see a lot more and have more responsibilities in the coverage. You're still playing hard, swarming to the ball and trying to do your best. So, it's similar, but different."
When talking about the Rutgers prospect Westerman, Rex Ryan gushes like a father talking of his newborn child, saying with a smile,
"Should I say it? Should I say I told you so?"
He went on to elaborate on just why a prospect like Westerman can thrive in his system.
"I think those guys have that mentality. They were around for only a few reasons. One is that they believe in themselves and they're tough as heck and they're going to do anything they can to find a way to get it done. Those are people that I want to surround myself with."
The blue-collar worker for the blue-collar coach. Westerman's versatility should mean that he sees the field more than first expected this season, and after a sack against the Giants on Friday, his performance is not hurting those chances.
Add to that, in his very first NFL game he sacked Matt Shaub, now I obviously don't want to put Vernon Gholston down, as like I said above, I still have faith in his ability. However Vernon has yet to record a NFL sack, I didn't see much of Westerman against the Patriots, but he is worth watching out for over the coming months.