Assessing the Roster- Defensive Tackle Tweet
Sione Pouha- I think we learned early in the season just how important Sione Pouha was to the 2011 version of this defense as the Jets struggled mightily with Pouha either out of the lineup or ineffective due to injury. What happened with Pouha this season was the one worry I had with him in that he is a big man who is 33 years old. Im sure the Jets looked at him as a minimal wear and tear player since he did not play much when he was younger, but almost every player in the league at this position and at his age play on 1 and 2 year contracts for this very reason. Now the Jets structured his deal almost as a series of one year contracts, but he ended up costing more on the cap than may have been necessary.
The back injury he had was a difficult one and clearly impacted his play. He was not even close to the player he had been the prior two seasons and it impacted everyone on the team, helping point out even moreso how poor the Jets Linebackers are. He played better as the season went on and made a much bigger impact at seasons end, but if you think Chris Johnson breaks off a 94 yard run against the old Pouha you would be kidding yourself.
Kenrick Ellis- Ellis showed so much promise in the preseason. He has great size and at times looks like he can have a bit of a nasty streak that the Jets are lacking, but when the regular season began there were just as many questions about him as before. He certainly did not replace Pouha and did not stand out in any area of the game. By seasons end the Jets only saw fit to play him in 25% or so of the snaps and that is a concern. Right now he is the lone young pedigree player on the team and he is not producing at that level.
Damon Harrison- Harrison benefitted from injuries to the line which allowed him to stay on the roster all year. Harrison saw very limited action and as an undrafted player will always be looked at unfavorably, unlike Ellis who gets the benefit of the doubt due to draft status.
The weakness at this position is one that can derail the type of defense the Jets play. The Jets had to get very creative this past season to move guys in and out from the middle of the line to make up for the injuries and lack of talent. I would be very surprised if Pouha was back at his current salary level. One there has to be major concerns of this being a chronic back injury that is essentially career ender at his age. The Jets handling of his health this year was awful and I think they made the back worse. He should have been deactivated early in the year and put on the temporary IR. The way he was in and out was the use of a player that they see no future in and you ride into the ground before being put out to pasture. Or they were just incompetent.
Pouha’s salary next year is $4.9 million and it will become fully guaranteed at the start of the 2013 League Year, so they need to make a move before that. At his age and health you cant pay him more than $1.5 million next year. Maybe you can give him some playing time incentives or roster bonuses, but he cant come back at that number. If they had more depth I think he would be gone outright because of the back.
Ellis is probably hurt the most by the change in the front office. The Jets I think wanted to chase Ellis’ potential because they drafted him. A new GM does not have that affiliation. I think they will take a very close look at the film and point out more on the negatives rather than searching for positives. Sometimes DT’s take time to develop so I think he will get one more season but I wouldn’t consider that a guarantee at all.
I think next season this is a spot where the Jets will be active in bringing in some minimum cost veterans that can stabilize the position. The fact that it is so difficult to find nose tackles in the league is all the more reason why the Jets should make that 43 transition permanent. I think finding two passable DTs is easier than finding a strong NT, like they had with Pouha and Kris Jenkins before him. If I had to guess Pouha will come back next season at a low figure and you will see numerous defensive rotations to make up for the lack of depth at the position. I don’t think the Jets will hesitate to draft players here if the right prospect is around in the later draft rounds.