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Westhoff: Raiders have Mantle and Maris

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff could be

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff could be in trouble with the league after publicly complaining that the Patriots use a "wall" along their sidelines on kick returns. Photo Credit: John Dunn, 2009

Mike Westhoff isn't took keen on hyperbole.

The Jets special teams coordinator tells it like it is, typically getting straight to the point. That's precisely what he did this afternoon when discussing the Raiders' two key special teamers: punter Shane Lechler and placekicker Sebastian Janikowski.

"You look at their two guys, it’s Mantle and Maris," Westhoff said. "They have the two big hitters that have been there, what, 12 years now, have a No. 1 draft pick with Janikowski. So I’ve gone against them many, many times. Actually we’ve had some very, very good games out there, special teams games against them.

"But I have tremendous respect for them. They are both big guys. They’ve worked hard at what they do."

Janikowski tied the NFL record for the longest field goal when he drilled a 63-yarder with room to spare in the Raiders' season-opening win in Denver. The 6-2, 250-pounder, who's Oakland's all-time leading scorer, has nailed all three of his attempts so far this season. 

"Sebastian, when he came in he’s so lightening fast kicking the ball that he was a little bit inconsistent," Westhoff said. "But over the years, he’s worked on that. He’s good and I have a lot of respect for him.

"Kickoffs so far this year, they’ve been all touchbacks. He hasn’t had a return. But last week, Jacksonville didn't have too many either. But all of the sudden, maybe they put it in the field of play. Then, they have to play the Jets. That’s how I feel. We’re pretty good. I think our kickoff return is excellent. Maybe we’ll get a chance, maybe not. But we are prepared to do it."

Lechler ranks second in punt average this season, booming them at a 56-yard clip. He had a 77-yarder against Denver, but also watched Eric Decker run a 90-yard punt back for a touchdown.

"Lechler has been to six Pro Bowls, three in a row," Westhoff raved. "He’s good." 

The Raiders also have another advantage of sorts when they play at home at O.co Coliseum this time of year. They are only one of two teams that has a baseball diamond on their home field, making for some different conditions. (Miami is the other, but this is the final season they'll have to worry about it since the Marlins are moving to a new stadium next season) 

So the Jets did their best to get ready for that today. Assistant special teams coach Ben Kowitca drove punter T.J. Conley, kicker Nick Folk and longsnapper Tanner Purdum to the Newark Bears stadium, and they practiced doing their thing on the dirt infield there.

"Whether or not it means we perfectly get used to it, I don’t have that answer to that," Westhoff said. "But we took different shoes and took all our four guys."

Westhoff knows things aren't the same on a field such as the one in Oakland, thus the need to prepare. 

"It’s different," he said. "If you were standing on our bench, our bench basically would be in centerfield and then they push those bleachers back. Their bench is like the pitcher’s mound. So, the middle of the field, if you look at it, on one hash, it’s dirt from the 30 to the 30. On the other hash, it’s from the 35 to the 35."

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