By Ryan Alfieri, Editor
When Rex first took the Jets’ job back in 2009, the defensive line was easily the weakest unit of the defense. In just three years, Mike Tannenbaum has re-stocked this position to make it the deepest position group on the Jets’ roster.
Strength: Depth. With the additions of Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson in the two recent drafts, this unit filled with versatile players. Because of the array of talent between Coples, Wilkerson, DeVito, Pouha, and Marcus Dixon, expect the Jets to get creative with their formations in an effort to get all of their best players on the field at once and play situation football.
While the Jets’ lack of a pass-rush has been well-documented, this line does a terrific job in terms of defending the run. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito are as good as there is in he NFL at controlling their gaps and pushing around guards. When the Jets do give up big plays in the run game, it has come from perimeter runs, which is usually the fault of the linebackers (we’ll get to them later).
Weakness: While there is not necessarily one single glaring issue on the line, the Jets are still relying a lot on young, unproven players to get the job done. While Pouha and DeVito are certainly proven commodities, Wilkerson and Coples are still young players that have yet to prove their consistency over a long period of time.
The Jets also need to vastly improve their interior pass rush, which was nothing short of abysmal from last year. This deficiency was a bige reason why the Jets drafted Coples in the first round, as his most prolific season at UNC came when he was a junior, rushing the passer as a defensive tackle.
Players to watch: Mike DeVito. The unheralded run-stuffer’s role is in question after the Jets grabbed Coples. DeVito is not a player you want off the field on early downs; it will be interesting to see just how the Jets plan on using him and the creative formations they go about doing that.
Sleeper: Marcus Dixon. In limited action, he played well last year and was one of the better pass-rushers on the roster. While he may be at the bottom of the depth chart because of the sheer talent in front of him, he is a more than capable replacement in case someone goes down with an injury.
It will also be interesting to see how Kenrick Ellis rebounds after spending some time in jail prior to camp.
Position Grade: B+
While there is a lot of potential of this unit, that all it is at this point: potential. Still, even if Quinton Coples turns out to be a massive bust, there are still enough good players on this team to be considered an above-average unit headed into 2012.