During the 2009 season, the Jets had eight different defensive linemen play 200 snaps or more. Coming into 2010, they transitioned from playing more of a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 and that meant moving Calvin Pace to outside linebacker, letting Marques Douglas go to Tennessee, and eventually letting Howard Green go to Green Bay.
The Jets’ 2010 opening day starting defensive line consisted of Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha, and Kris Jenkins. Ellis was known for his pass rush ability even though he had a poor 2009 in that category, Pouha had the best run stop rating on the team in 2009, and Jenkins had a great 2008 but generally a down year in 2009.
After just five plays, Kris Jenkins was lost to injury and didn’t see another snap the entire year. This made room for Mike Devito, who made the team in 2007 as an undrafted free agent. He saw 13 snaps per game in 2008 and didn’t really have a lot to show for it. In 2009, however, Devito ranked as the 11th best run-stopping defensive tackle, despite playing as a backup.
We expected him to play well in 2010, but we didn’t know he would play as well as he did.
Having come a long way already, Devito’s play continued to justify not only his roster spot, but his 2009 contract extension as well. A standout as a college nose tackle at Maine, he took to playing tackle in a 4-3 alignment and was as comfortable with the move to 3-4 end, a force versus the run at every stage.
Week after week during the 2010 season, Devito showed that he deserved to be the starter. He ended his first ten games with a positive rating, thanks mostly to his ability to stop the run. Two of his best run-stopping games came early in the season where he got the best of Ravens guards Ben Grubbs and Chris Chester, and then Patriots guard Dan Connolly and center Dan Koppen for seven stops in two games.
For the majority of the next eight games, he made more positive plays in the run game than negative and ended that ten game stretch with a strong performance in key moments against the Texans. After forcing a 3rd-quarter fumble by Arian Foster which led to a Jets field goal, Devito’s tackle on the one yard late in the fourth quarter prevented a Texans touchdown. On the following drive, the Texans now leading and within 10 yards of scoring again in the final minutes, Devito came up with tackles on two of three offensive plays and again forced Houston to settle for a FG, The Jets scored on their next drive to win the game.
Weeks 12 to 16 were a rough patch for Devito. Against the Bengals he logged a single positive play and, while he had another decent day against New England’s Dan Koppen, he didn’t fare as well against their left side. With just four stops in the other three games, Devito wasn’t terrible against the run, it just wasn’t what we had come to expect.
Devito had excelled against the run, but his pass rush throughout the season could’ve used some of work. He was in on over 300 pass plays and created only seven total pressures, with six of those coming in Weeks 3 and 4. The consistent lack of pressure kept Devito’s overall rating down, but getting after the quarterback isn’t something that is expected of him.
Saving His Best
The Jets rested many players in their regular season finale, but Devito still played half of the game. Bills center Eric Wood and right guard Chad Rinehart had trouble handling him on his way to making three stops and his best single-game grade of the season, +4.0.
In the Wild Card round, Devito was back to his usual self, getting the best of Jeff Saturday for another three stop day and, in his third time facing the Patriots’ offensive line, he did the same but also added a forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
Devito went to another level in the AFC title game, earning a positive grade on an outstanding 10 plays. He came away with a safety in the fourth quarter and had three other moments where he secured tackles for short gains or no gain. It was a day-long battle, especially when he squared-off with the right side of the Steelers’ line, Ramon Foster and Flozell Adams, but overall, Devito won the fight with seven tackles and six stops.
All told, Devito finished as our top-graded 3-4 end in run defense
The Jets might see a lot of changes to the line in 2011. Devito and Sione Pouha have formed a great pair in stopping the run. The Jets have already cut Kris Jenkins, busted draft pick Vernon Gholston, and all time great Jason Taylor who played more at outside linebacker but was on the line in some pass rush situations. The other two linemen to see significant snaps were Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce who are both free agents and are getting up there in age.
There isn’t yet a clear answer to who will line up next to Devito and Pouha next year, but it is clear that the Jets have two thirds of a defensive line that teams will not want to run against.
All of the players leaving might be big names, but the players left, Devito in particular, are names you need to know.