Mike Westhoff talks Jets punters

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mike Westhoff's special-teams units have always been among the tops in the NFL.

Last season was no exception -- except when it came to average yards per punt.

With Steve Weatherford doing the punting, the New York Jets finished 23rd in that category (42.6) in 2010.

And that didn't make Westhoff very happy, so the Jets decided to make a change in the offseason, electing to bring in rookie T.J. Conley rather than reaching out and bringing back Weatherford, who signed with and now serves as the starting punter for the rival New York Giants.

"I was disappointed in some of the poor performances that he had at the end of the year," Westhoff said Thursday. "It wasn't very good. You were there. You were up in New England (when Weatherford hit a 12-yarder in a 45-3 loss in December)? The ball went straight out (of bounds). ... There were times when he just didn't do the job. I was looking to get better than what he did at that point in time. ... Wasn't good enough, in my opinion. It wasn't. I don't want to be 23rd in the NFL. That's where he was."

Weatherford wound up tying an NFL record in 2010 by landing 42 punts inside the 20-yard line. But after getting off to a tremendous start at the beginning of the year, he tailed off at the end.

Weatherford made Westhoff livid after he called a fake punt on his own on a fourth-and-18 against the Green Bay Packers in November, which failed miserably. And after having just four touchbacks during the regular season, Weatherford posted six in the playoffs. In three postseason contests, he netted just 29.5 yards per punt.

"Our guy did a great job snapping, I think we had the best protection in the NFL, but there were times when (Weatherford) just didn't do the job," Westhoff said.

"I was looking to get better than what he did at that point in time. Basically, he was very similar (to Conley) last year.

"I was trying to move on. If he's ready to move on, God bless him. I wish him the best. I was looking at based on what performance that he had. It wasn't good enough, in my opinion. It wasn't.

"Now, can he do better? I'm sure he can. If he does it, he does it. But he didn't. We're trying to get better, that's the goal."

Westhoff said he has "confidence" in Conley, but the rookie still has to prove himself to his special-teams coach.

"I have confidence in T.J., I do, but yet he has to go and prove it," Westhoff said. "But that's what we face. We didn't just go out and grab (a punter) off the top of the tree. We'll take him and mold him. He's been in our camps; he deserves an opportunity. He's had a very, very good preseason, and I hope he takes it forward. I know he can. I hope he does."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.