- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the eighth part in our daily, position-by-position breakdown of the Jets' roster. Tomorrow: Defensive end.
Focus: Defensive tackle
Depth chart: Sione Pouha, Trevor Pryce (DE), Kris Jenkins, Martin Tevaseu, Marcus Dixon (DE), Matt Kroul, Carlton Powell.
Expiring contracts: Pryce.
Rear-view mirror: Things changed dramatically when Jenkins wrecked his knee on the sixth play of the season. Just like that, the Jets lost their only interior lineman with every-down potential -- a blow to the defense. Pouha, slated for a prominent role anyway, became The Man for the second straight year. The powerful Pouha anchored a run defense that finished third in the NFL (91 yards per game). In fact, the Jets yielded only 3.66 yards per rush up the middle, seventh-best in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com. Clearly, the Jets missed Jenkins' explosiveness at the point of attack, but they adjusted to Pouha's two-gapping style. Unfortunately for them, he didn't have one of his better games in the AFC Championship.
Pryce, 35, who arrived in October after being cut by the Ravens, still had some tread left on his tire. Playing mostly as an interior rusher on passing downs, he recorded 12 hits on the quarterback, third-best on the team. He was slowed by a hip injury late in the season, but cranked it up -- probably for the last time -- in the AFC title game.
Numbers game: Pouha had no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons, but this season he led the team with three. Go figure.
Crystal ball: The big question involves the big fella -- Jenkins, who is due a $1 million roster bonus and a $3.75 million base salary. Clearly, he will have to take a pay cut if he wants to return. Even then, there's no guarantee he'll make it back. He'll be 32 in August, and he's coming off back-to-back knee surgeries, but Jenkins says he wants to keep playing. Pryce indicated at the end of the season that he's leaning toward retirement. Pouha, 32, is no spring chicken, but he can hold down the fort. The Jets would've backed up the Brinks truck for Ravens NT Haloti Ngata, but he received the franchise tag. They're high on Dixon, but this is a position that needs to be addressed in the draft or free agency.
Hot seat: Jenkins. When healthy, he can do remarkable things. But can he get through another season? If he does, will it be with the Jets?
Positional rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.0.
UPDATE: The deadline for Jenkins' $1 million roster bonus is the seventh day of the league year, according to a league source. Obviously, the Jets aren't going to pay it, but they won't have to cut him before the likely lockout March 4. The league year is supposed to begin March 4; when it actually does is anybody's guess.
4dField Yates and Rich Cimini