Camp Countdown '08: Defensive Line
The weakest part of the Jets defense remains up front with suspect starting defensive ends and a nose tackle playing the position for the first time in his career. The starting 3 may hold the key to the Jets defensive success being called upon to occupy enough offensive linemen to allow their linebackers to make plays on the football, something the team has not done consistently for 2 years. The Jets traded for NT Kris Jenkins in the offseason to replace the traded DeWayne Robertson and hope he is the missing piece to the puzzle. Jenkins has great size and is a devastating player when healthy and in shape. The Jets gave him financial incentives to stay in shape and expect him to quickly adapt to the position in 2008. He will likely have the biggest impact on the defense in 2008. Neither Shaun Ellis nor Kenyon Coleman are really quality starting players for the team. Ellis has slowed down considerably and has been very inconsistent these last few seasons while Coleman is best suited to be a quality backup as he was in Dallas. There is a chance that this is Ellis’ last season with the Jets and if a player can mount a challenge to him during the season he may be slowly phased out.
It’s imperative the Jets get some production out of their projected backups to allow the starters to rotate in and out of the lineup and stay fresh. NT Sione Pouha was just given a new 4 year contract as he showed some life of being a capable player in the NFL and he will be the primary backup for Jenkins. CJ Mosley can play a DE in the 34 alignment or a DT when the Jets switch to a 43 giving the team flexibility when he is on the field. He can be a good situational pass rusher as a DE, but his lack of ability to defend the run will limit his time on the field. He will be playing for a new deal in 2008. Mike DeVito made the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and was used in spot duty during the last half showing some promise. Kareem Brown was a late season pickup off waivers from the New England Patriots who only saw brief action in one game. He is young and has the ability to play end for the team. Matt McChesney was injured last season but has been with the team for three years now and had yet to see more than a handful of game time while Thomas Johnson was out of a job in 2007 before getting a tryout with the Jets in 2008. Bryan Mattison and Ropati Pitoitua are both rookies hoping to make an impression on the coaching staff to stick around past the summer.
The Jets carried 8 linemen in 2006 and 7 in 2007 and it’s a safe bet they will look for the same number again this year. With Jenkins and Pouha expected to see most of the time at NT they will likely be the only two pure DTs kept on the team, while Ellis and Coleman are the two likely locks at DE. The Devito/Brown/Mosley competition is one to keep an eye on in the summer. It wont get much play in the press, but the winner will likely see a good deal of snaps while the second place finisher will see a good deal of time as well. Any one of them could find themselves starting down the line if Ellis or Coleman falter. There are no negative financial implications to cutting any of these players and the third place finisher could be sent packing if someone newer steps up. McChesney’s failure to see any time for the team means he is going to have to have a good camp to continue to play with the Jets, but they keep bringing him back so there has to be something they like with him. He has a shot. The other 3 players are all longshots, with Mattison having the best chance to make the team.