Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Jets [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Position analysis: Defensive line

By Rich Cimini

This is part six in a nine-part review of the 2011 season, a position-by-position analysis:

Position: Defensive line

Overall grade: 7.5

Depth chart: Sione Pouha (15 starts/627 Plays), Muhammad Wilkerson (16/606), Mike DeVito (11/456), Marcus Dixon (3/436), Ropati Pitoitua (0/371), Kenrick Ellis (2/69), Martin Tevaseu (0/40).

Gold star: Pouha.

Disappointing: Ellis.

Stat check: The entire defensive line combined for only 7.5 sacks.

Analysis: The Jets didn’t get a lot of production out of the line, but it’s important to remember the scheme is designed for the linemen to do the dirty work, setting up the linebackers. That said, the Jets slipped to 13th in run defense, unusually low for a Rex Ryan defense. Most of the problems were on the perimeter, with the DEs and OLBs struggling at times with their run fits, although the lack of experience on the rebuilt line was evident at times.

Pouha (55 tackles, one sack) was the best of the group, establishing himself as one of the best run-stopping nose tackles. He spearheaded a still-solid interior run defense, using his formidable strength to wear down centers and guards. This was a frustrating year for DeVito (34 tackles, one sack), another blue-collar tough guy. He missed five games with two knee injuries, limiting his effectiveness.

Wilkerson (53 tackles, three sacks) gets high marks for durability, holding up his entire rookie season despite no off-season program due to the lockout. There’s a lot to like about the former first-round pick, but he also has a lot to learn. He must do a better job of getting off blocks and he needs to add more moves to his pass-rushing repertoire. Despite 298 pass-rushing chances, according to Pro Football Focus, he had only nine QB hits, based on the coaches’ film.

Despite limited playing time, Pitoitua (18 tackles, one sack) was fairly productive and should continue to improve. Ditto, Marcus Dixon (14, 1.5). They’re going to need a whole lot more from Ellis (6, 0), who basically had a red-shirt year. The third-round pick was as raw as raw could be, demonstrating a lack of refinement. His pad level was too high and didn’t do a good job of reading blocks. He gets a pass because of his small-school background, but the scholarship is over in 2012.

2012 free agents: Pouha (UFA).

On the bubble: Ellis, Tevaseu.

Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.