- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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The Bills always have one of the best special teams units in the game and will provide a good challenge for Gang Green this weekend. First-round pick C. J. Spiller returned a kickoff for a touchdown against New England last weekend and Roscoe Parrish is one of the best punt returners in the game. Punter Brian Moorman is also one of the best in the league.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff met with the media Friday and discussed a variety of topics. While he didn’t delve into much about Buffalo’s special teams, other than talking about their tendency to draft top returners from college and praising Buffalo’s returners and unit as a whole, here are some of the highlights from his talk.
OH SNAP: Westhoff praised second-year long snapper Tanner Purdum’s technique, saying he could always snap, but the questions were always whether he could block. He also applauded his work habits.
“He’s got better and better and we’ve really challenged him going all the way back to the minicamps,” Westhoff said. “We made it very difficult for him, every day and he’s reacted very well. He’s got stronger. We have him on a special program to get him stronger and he’s improved it.”
UP AND AWAY: Westhoff said that punter Steve Weatherford has improved his directional punting, his hang time is better and he’s been more explosive this year. Weatherford is averaging 46.2 yards per punt, and he has a long of 61 yards in 14 attempts.
While Westhoff didn’t make a direct correlation, he said he’s seen a more explosive Weatherford this offseason following his cardiac ablation procedure. Weatherford had the procedure done in the offseason to prevent irregular heartbeats, as he missed Jets Wild Card round victory over the Cincinnati Bengals because of the medical condition.
Westhoff said Weatherford has been able to move forward with his workout regiment, compared to previously “take two steps forward and a step back.” He started noticing in March that his punter “looked different” in the offseason. Westhoff said Weatherford has gone from averaging 4.3 seconds of hang time in practice to 4.65 to 4.7 seconds.
“He’s able to maximize his abilities and he’s done it in the games and he did in the preseason so hopefully he’ll continue,” Westhoff said. “But to me it’s a matter of I see how he’s improved physically, that’s what I’ve seen but the whole package has been a good package. (The punts) not all perfect, he doesn’t hit them all perfect, but he’s done a nice job.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Eric Smith’s blocked punt against Miami on Saturday was the result of practice, practice and more practice. The special teams unit had seen that the Dolphins were a little aggressive and the Jets practiced that scenario and Smith ended up with the block. Westhoff said Brad Smith set it up for Eric Smith.
“Eric Smith is a very gifted athlete. He just has a knack and I don’t think I’ve been around anybody that worked harder at practice of doing it every single day when he rushes,” Westhoff said. “He gives our guys fits. Who ever we try to get to block him has a hard time. Every day he works at it. “
JOKE TIME: Speaking of Brad Smith, Westhoff had the line of the day about the Jets Mr. do-it-all.
Said Westhoff: “Brad leaves, I’m leaving.”
Westhoff added that Brad Smith allows the team to do to a lot of things, and any time he has a football in his hands, he’s a dangerous weapon. He also praised him as a return man.