Monday, July 16, 2012
Camp preview: Defensive line
By Rich Cimini
Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:
Position: Defensive line
Projected starters: Muhammad Wilkerson (DE), Sione Pouha (NT), Quinton Coples (DE).
Projected reserves: Mike DeVito (DE/DT), Marcus Dixon (DE), Kenrick Ellis (NT), Martin Tevaseu (NT).
New faces: Coples.
Going, going, gone: Ropati Pitoitua.
Player to watch: Wilkerson. The former No. 1 pick got Rex'd in the offseason, meaning he received effusive, nearly over-the-top praise from Rex Ryan, who is known for gushing about his players. In other words, the bar has been raised, young man. After a solid rookie year, Wilkerson should make a significant jump, especially as a pass rusher.
Potential strength: This unit has depth and versatility, a far cry from the unit Ryan inherited in 2009. The front office has done a nice job of using the draft to perform an extreme makeover. The line goes six deep, with Wilkerson, Coples and Dixon capable of playing multiple spots. Ellis, coming off what amounted to a red-shirt season, will be expected to take a big step forward. His conditioning bears watching, considering he just spent time in jail. Because of the depth and versatility, coordinator Mike Pettine will play more 4-3 and more "46" fronts than in previous years.
Potential weakness: There is no proven pass rusher; everything is based on potential. Not one of the linemen has recorded more than three sacks in a single season.
Wild card: Coples. Ryan isn't afraid to throw a rookie lineman into the fire, as we witnessed last season with Wilkerson. This year, it's Coples, their No. 1 pick. He was penciled into the starting lineup the moment he was drafted. If he plays the way he did in 2010, watch out. If he hits the cruise-control button too many times, as he did last season at North Carolina, Coples will hear comparisons to Vernon Gholston. Based on pure ability, he could be their best lineman -- like, right now.