Friday, February 18, 2011
Positional analysis: Defensive end
By Rich Cimini
This is the ninth part of our daily, position-by-position breakdown of the Jets' roster. Monday: Inside linebacker.
Focus: Defensive end.
Depth chart: Shaun Ellis, Mike DeVito (DT), Vernon Gholston, Ropati Pitoitua, Jarron Gilbert (DT), Garrett McIntyre, Lorenzo Washington.
Expiring contracts: Ellis.
Rear-view mirror: DeVito might be the most under-appreciated player on the team. Lining up against either a guard or tackle, DeVito was an outstanding run stuffer in his first season as a full-time starter. The Jets allowed a league-low yards-per-carry when opponents ran behind right tackle, according to FootballOutsiders.com -- that's the left side of the defense, where DeVito most often lined up. Unfortunately for the Jets, he's a one-dimensional player, offering little in terms of pass rush.
Ellis, the longest-tenured Jet, made it through his 11th season without missing any games due to injury. His numbers dropped fairly significantly from 2009 -- 6.5 sacks to 4.5, 56 tackles to 27. Nevertheless, Ellis played a key role in the third-ranked run defense, showing his versatility by playing every position on the line -- even nose tackle in certain pass-rushing packages. He played the game of his life in the playoff win over the Patriots. Gholston, in his first season as a full-time lineman, made no impact whatsoever. He was inactive for all three playoff games, which means his production in those games pretty much equalled his production in the games he played.
Numbers game: The Jets increased their sack total to 40, but only 4.5 sacks came from full-time defensive ends -- all by Ellis ... Gholston took an oh-fer for the third straight year -- no sacks in his career.
Crystal ball: Clearly, this is a position that needs fresh blood. DeVito is a keeper, for sure, but what to do with Ellis? His tremendous performance against the Patriots might have earned him another contract, but it would be far less than what he was making. He'll be 34 in June. They might be able to squeeze one more season out of him as a full-time player, but that wouldn't be ideal. Gholston is a goner. If Rex Ryan can't get it out of him, no one can. It's time to cut bait. The coaching staff has high hopes for Pitoitua, who blew out his Achilles' last preseason. He could be the No. 3 end.
Hot seat: Pitoitua. He has been in the organization for three years, teasing the coaches with his explosiveness and awesome size (6-8, 310). Now it's time to deliver.
Positional rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.0.