Life’s not going to get any easier for Kris Jenkins. The secret is out. He’s one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces whenever he’s on the field.
The New York Jets’ big man in the middle is going to find himself being schemed against more often than ever before.
It’s a trend that took form after the Jets’ ended the Titans’ win-streak in 2008, and it’s something teams may consider improving upon in 2009.
Through the first 12 weeks of the season, Jenkins’ play set the tone for the Jets’ defense. Running plays were stopped cold as soon as they reached Jenkins reach. According to KC Joyner’s recent article in the New York Times, Jenkins dominated offensive lines at the point-of-attack, as the defense allowed a mere 2.5 yards per carry in runs up the middle.
But when he wasn’t playing, it absolutely showed. Sione Pouha was used as relief for Jenkins and only proved to lack all of the truly disruptive qualities that Jenkins brought to the field.
Joyner writes, “The notable item is that opposing teams were a lot more willing to try running at Jenkins. He faced an average of 5.6 (point-of-attack) runs in the Jets’ first 11 games and then saw over 10 POA runs per game down the stretch.
“That wasn’t an anomaly of a couple of games throwing off the total, either, as the minimum number of POA runs he faced in a single game in Weeks 13-17 was nine.”
It wasn’t only Jenkins who was being directly challenged, but ex-coach Eric Mangini’s defensive philosophies. While Jenkins was still stout against the run, the team gave up 3.6 yards per carry during the final five-game collapse. It was Mangini’s inability to adjust that exposed Jenkins to new offensive schemes.
No one should expect opposing teams to deviate from a strategy that neutralized a Pro Bowl defender.
Given Jenkins’ size (6’4″, 360 lbs), it’s also important to consider the constant contact he takes at his position and how his injury impacts his production. Suffering from a herniated disk, the pain and discomfort Jenkins undoubtedly experiences is a strain on how he’d like to actually perform.
Looking to add depth to the defensive tackle position, the Jets hit the free agent market and signed Howard Green away from the Seattle Seahawks. But his contributions can’t be expected to equal those of Jenkins.
At 30 years of age, Green has recorded a meager 38 tackles in a five-season career with the Jets being his fifth team. Spending some time out of the NFL and struggling to find the field when he was with a team doesn’t inspire the utmost confidence as a suitable backup to Jenkins.
This is where Rex Ryan’s reputation must reign supreme. Finding the right formula to preserve Pro Bowl caliber talent while maintaing defensive efficiency is of the absolute essence.
The attack-style defense Ryan promises should provide immediate relief for Jenkins from the linebackers, as Mangini’s read-and-react approach left him more exposed to blockers with no immediate support from behind.
The addition of Bart Scott should only make run stuffing easier for Jenkins and the entire defense.