NY Jets defense: The one critical weakness in 2011

nyJets defensive line 2011

Where to draw the line

Whoever said size doesn’t matter is being naive. This holds true especially for the small stature of the New York Jets’ defensive line over the past two seasons. The defense lack of a pass rush last season was the Jets main crux to have a more dominant defense. Because the line could not pressure opposing quarterbacks, teams had time to scan the field and find the open receiver (Kyle Wilson often being the spotted target; but that’s for another article). The Jets’ remedy was to blitz opponents to create pressure but after a couple of weeks teams were able to prepare for the blitzes and counter such a strategy.

The Size Problem

The root of the Jets’ problem in the 2010 season laid in the players being asked to break through opponent’s offensive line. The Jets defensive linemen had no size. With Kris Jenkins, a 6 foot 5 inches and 360 pound nose tackle injured in Game 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Jets were unable to replace his physical presence. Sione Pouha stepped in but he and Mike DeVito were neither taller than 6 feet 3 inches or more than 325 pounds. That’s a huge size disadvantage especially against offensive lineman averaging 6 feet 5 inches. Maybe that’s the reason the two only have a combined 3 career sacks.

Yes, the Jets did have a proven pass rusher in Shaun Ellis; a 6 feet 5 inches veteran. But due to age and lack of support he amounted to 4.5 sacks for the season. The Jets also did sign Jason Taylor (6 feet 6 inches) but he spent the season as a linebacker. Trevor Pryce (6 feet 5 inches, 290 pounds) was also acquired but due to his age he had a very limited role. In short, the Jets defense linemen were small and that attributed to the lack of pressure for opposing quarterbacks.

Could improvements lay ahead?

Trevor Pryce on defensive line
So far, the Jets look to add their drafted defensive linemen, Muhammad Wilkerson (6 feet 4 inches 315 pounds) and Kenrick Ellis (6 feet 5 inches, 330 pounds), to the starting rotation. Both, although rookies, increase the size of the defensive line compared to last year. Plus, they add youth to what was an aging line. DeVito and Pouha contributed greatly to the Jets over the past two years especially with regards to the run defense. The Jets, however, should unleash their drafted linemen this year and test their pass rush abilities. After all, they can’t do worse than 3 sacks in two years, right?

Photo credits: AP Photo/Eric Gay

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Written by Nassau Jones

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