Jets again counting on Pouha, DeVito with Jenkins gone

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sione Pouha realizes he's no Kris Jenkins. So does Mike DeVito.

Together, though, they figure they can help offset the loss of the big man in the middle of the New York Jets' defensive line.

Again.

"This is like deja vu," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said.

That's because it's the second consecutive year in which Jenkins has been sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, catapulting his two lesser-known teammates into the spotlight.

"A lot of people would say things like, 'Who are these guys?' and, 'These guys are just journeymen,'" Pouha said. "We might not get the lights and all that stuff, but that's all cool. We just sit back with a smile and do our job."

They've already proven they can do it. Jenkins, the starting nose tackle, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 6 last season, and Pouha and DeVito stepped in and helped the Jets become the NFL's top defense.

This year, Jenkins lasted less than one quarter, tearing the ACL in the same knee during Monday night's opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

"We've been through this before and we know how to do it and what we have to do," said DeVito, normally a defensive end. "Now we just have to go out there, just like we did last year, and show that it wasn't a fluke or a one-time thing."

Few around the league had heard much of either man at this time a year ago, although both were considered valuable pieces of coach Rex Ryan's defense. Pouha was a third-round pick of the Jets out of Utah in 2005, and DeVito was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Maine in 2007.

Pettine said the two players rallied around the "journeymen" label and even had the word pinned up in the defensive meeting room as a constant reminder.

"These are guys that are nameless, faceless guys when you look at the rest of the room defensively," Pettine said. "I think that's the way they like it."

Pouha made a career-high 14 starts last season and established a personal best with 61 tackles, and DeVito also set a career high with 37 tackles. Both were singled out by Ryan after the loss to the Ravens for their solid performances. They each had seven tackles, and Pouha recovered two fumbles.

"They were absolutely outstanding," Ryan said. "We need them to play that way this week, for sure."

With the New England Patriots coming to the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday, it won't be an easy task. Ryan is expected to shuffle his line around a bit with Pouha starting as the nose tackle, and DeVito, Shaun Ellis and Vernon Gholston all moving around to make up for Jenkins' absence.

"It's just about working together well and knowing that there's a big hole to fill without Kris," DeVito said. "We all have to come together and be that much more on our game, assignments and techniques."

Pouha recently spoke to Jenkins and said he's upbeat despite another lost season.

"You know how Jenks is, just a strong-minded person," Pouha said. "He just said that we need to keep on going, that was it."

Pouha knows what Jenkins is going through to some extent. Pouha tore the ACL in his right knee after his rookie season and spent the entire 2006 season on injured reserve.

"It's a long process, man," Pouha said.

Still, he can't imagine having to go through the rehabilitation process two years in a row, and for the third time overall; Jenkins tore the ACL in his right knee earlier in his career.

"That's what makes you have a lot of sympathy for Jenks," Pouha said. "It drops your jaw and it drops your heart because you know it's times two. And, not only is it times two, it's back to back."

Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold has spent several exhausting days in practice going up against Jenkins, and he believes Pouha and DeVito offer a different challenge.

"Kris is blessed with a lot of natural abilities and talents, but I think what they lack, they make up with hard work," Mangold said. "Sione is just a load. You have a hard time moving him. Mike's got some pretty good speed. So they're kind of your yin and your yang there."

Even if they are still known mostly only as Jenkins' replacements.

"I like being humble and being under the radar," DeVito said. "The label 'journeymen' can stay this year, too, because that's what we are. We'll go out there, be the journeymen, get the job done and we'll be the No. 1 defense in the NFL again."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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