How the New York Jets Can Survive Without Kris Jenkins
Now, just three weeks later it has been a complete 180 for Sanchez and Jets. They have dropped three straight, two to divisional opponents.
Last week in the midst of Sanchez's five interception thriller, Rex Ryan actually considered benching the rookie. Earlier this week Ryan had to come out and declare he was sticking with Sanchez as the starter.
Sanchez's struggles aren't even the Jets biggest problem right now though. In the loss to Buffalo this past week the Jets lost All Pro NT Kris Jenkins for the season due to a torn ACL.
After all that they've gone through the past few weeks, from the MNF loss to the rival Dolphins to the embarrassing defeat to the Bills, this is the a nightmare scenario for the Jets.
No one man can replace Jenkins. He is irreplaceable, one of the few players in the league.
Everyone knows that the most important position in the 3-4 defense is the nose tackle. The first two seasons the Jets ran the 3-4, their run defense was putrid largely because they had Dwayne Robertson playing the nose.
Then before last season they acquired Kris Jenkins from the Panthers he and immediately improved the run defense. He occupied two blockers almost every play, and when he wasn't clogging the middle he was in the backfield making plays. For the first half of the 2008 season Jenkins was a legitimate MVP candidate.
The loss of a nose tackle can be crippling to a team. Look no farther than the San Diego Chargers this year. They lost Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams after the first game of the season and they haven't been the same since.
The past five seasons they have been ranked in the top half of rush defense every season and haven been in the top 10 three times. This year, without Williams, they rank 27th in the league.
For the Jets to avoid a Chargers-esq collapse it's going to take a team effort by the Jets to replace Jenkins. The guy that will need to step up the most though, is Sione Pouha.
Pouha will step into Jenkins nose tackle position and while he doesn't have the same play-making ability Jenkins brought, he certainly does have the frame to succeed. If Pouha can use his 325 pounds to hold up the point of attack that's one less thing to Jets need to worry about.
Without Jenkins in the middle it makes the job of middle linebackers, David Harris and Bart Scott, a lot tougher. They will no longer to be able to roam free and make plays. Teams will start to send guards up to block them and they need to be able to shed those blocks and make plays.
This was a problem for former Jets linebacker, Jonathan Vilma, who struggled in the 3-4 without a true nose tackle in front of him and was ultimately shipped out-of-town.
Some of the burden will also fall on the shoulders of defensive ends, Shaun Ellis and Marques Douglas especially Ellis. Ellis has been one of most consistent and reliable Jet defenders for years but has been rather quiet this year.
After missing the first week of the season due to suspension, Ellis has racked up only .5 sack after compiling eight last year.
Perhaps the man under the most pressure now is head coach, Rex Ryan. Ryan's vaunted blitzes haven't been the same the past few weeks and the Jets have only generate done sack in the past three weeks.
Now without Jenkins in the middle Rex will need to be creative in developing some new blitzes to confuse opposing offenses.
One thing Rex might do is employ more of a 4-3 defense. He ran a hybrid scheme in Baltimore and the Jets did show some 4-3 looks at the ned of last week's game. The Jets personnel isn't suited for the 4-3 full-time but if used in combination with the 3-4 it can be effective in offsetting the lack of girth in the middle.
Also some 4-3 looks would put 2008 first round pick, Vernon Gholston, in his college position, defensive end.
Gholston, who has been a common scape goat for Jet fans, has surprisingly played fairly well this season. He hasn't been getting to the quarterback but has done the little things that announcers don't point out.
Hopefully some snaps at defensive end will get him back into his confront zone and he get back to do what he was drafted to do, sack the quarterback.
It certainly won't be easy replacing the Jenkins but the Jets still have plenty of play-makers on defense and the players are buying into what Rex Ryan is selling and he won't let them quit on the season.
We'll see soon enough if they can step up to the challenge and get the season back on track. It starts this Sunday in Oakland.
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