There was no question the New York Jets needed to upgrade their defensive line this off-season. They had issues with their depth and struggled to consistently get after the quarterback. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact their defense was ranked third in the NFL last season at stopping the run and managed to generate enough of a pass rush to knock both Petyon Manning and Tom Brady out of the playoffs.
Two-thirds of the Jets starting defensive line are relative no-name players who don’t necessarily fit in with their big name, big talking counterparts. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito have both very quietly developed into quality NFL starters and are a big part of why the Jets defense has been so successful the past two years.Pouha has admirably stepped in for an injured Kris Jenkins in both 2009 and 2010. Jenkins was released this year, leaving Pouha as the official full time starting nose tackle. He is coming off a career year, where he racked up 59 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 recovered fumbles. A 3rd round draft pick of the Jets in 2005, Pouha has fought off early injuries in his career and multiple coaching changes to develop into the starting nose tackle on one of the league’s best defenses. The Jets drafted Kenrick Ellis in the third round this season, who should be able to spell him and could eventually develop into his replacement a few years down the road.
Mike DeVito is an undrafted free agent from Maine, now entering his fifth year with the Jets. He has clawed his way up from being an extra body in training camp, to the practice squad, to a rotational player and now finally to being a starting defensive end. The Jets showed confidence in him before last season by letting Marques Douglas walk in free agency, which left the starting job to DeVito. He responded with 59 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, and 2 forced fumbles. He is a good fit in Ryan’s scheme and is solid against the run.
The Jets first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson will likely replace Shaun Ellis in the starting line-up, if not this year, than likely next year. He should provide a pass rush out of the defensive end position, while DeVito can continue to plug up the run.
When discussing the Jets defense, it is usually names like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace that come up first. However, don’t discount the production they are getting from blue-collar players like Pouha and DeVito.