NFL: Meet Sione Pouha, the New Linchpin Of the New York Jets Defensive Line
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For the second straight season, Jets nosetackle Kris Jenkins has gone down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee.
It’s unfortunate for Jenkins, who contemplated retirement following the injury last year. He instead decided to come back, rehabbed extensively, dropped 40 pounds and was looking like a beast all summer.
Then the freak injury happened again. Just like week 6 of last year, Jenkins got tangled up with a few bodies and got his leg caught under him in an awkward fall in the first half of the Monday night opener with the Ravens.
I empathize with Big Jenks, he’s a class act and I truly hope we see him again in some capacity, either as a coach or an analyst if he indeed decides to hang up the cleats following this new setback. He played like a Jet and will be missed.
But thankfully for the Jets, they’re not in panic mode after losing their Pro Bowl nosetackle, and part of that is because of the performance last year of sixth year defense lineman Sione Pouha.
Pouha got the start alongside Jenkins, recovering two fumbles in the first quarter against the Ravens.
He filled it admirably for Jenkins last year, allowing the Jets defense to keep on rolling after losing their big man in the middle. Now that Jenkins is lost for the entire season and not just the final 3 months, it puts even more pressure on Pouha and Mike DeVito to step up.
Not only did Pouha play well for a replacement player, he was far better than anyone could’ve expected from him in 2009. After not doing much since being drafted in the third round out of Utah in 2005, Pouha was outstanding as a run stuffer in Rex Ryan’s system.
According to ProFootballFocus, one of the great new-age football sites on the web, in 2009 Sione Pouha was the top-ranked run-stuffing tackle in all of football, accounting for 32 defensive stops, making the Jets run defense as tough as ever even without big Kris Jenkins.
Meanwhile, former undrafted free agent defensive end Mike DeVito was equally tremendous, dominating at the line of scrimmage both against the run and as a pass rusher. Also noted in that article was DeVito’s strong performance in the playoffs last year.
This year, Pouha and DeVito will be front and center as they take over for Kris Jenkins and Marques Douglas, a former Rex Ryan guy with the Ravens who played last year for the Jets and was recently released by the Dolphins.
Pouha is well liked in the locker room, as this fantastic piece by the NJ Star Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas reveals. Vrentas, always reliable for high-quality Jets stories, shined a light on the massive Pouha in this recent piece, as the big man has made the transition from potential roster fodder to indispensable cog in the NFL’s best defense.
Pouha, a sixth-year defensive lineman, gives everything he has on the field: willingly taking on double teams, knowing each position along the line, happily flying under the radar — and now, for the second straight season, helping to fill the void left by nose tackle Kris Jenkins.“Sione is an outstanding player in his own right, no question,” coach Rex Ryan said. “He’s basically coming into his own.”
The 6’3, 325 pound Pouha, (pronounced see-oh-nee bo-oo-ha) is hard to miss, but he was certainly a late bloomer in the NFL. Pouha is a devout Mormon who spent two years on a mission after high school, so he did not play college football at Utah until he was 22 years old.
Now he’s 31 years old, only in his sixth season in the NFL, so he does not have the wear and tear that most 31-year-olds have, which is lucky for the Jets, as he’s still a young guy football-wise.
Nobody around the league really knew who he was when he came in to replace Jenkins last year. He was just a journeyman, like Mike DeVito, before the league started to take notice that these two guys are for real.
“I like it that way,” Pouha said. “I like just being the guy that just comes in, doing my job. You can catch people by surprise.”
I don’t think Pouha will catching too many more people by surprise anymore, especially as the 2010 season goes on.
Said defensive line coach Mark Carrier, “You can just tell he’s at that point in his career where he’s ready to be a true dominant player in this defense.”
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