Jets using committee approach to replace 360-pound NT Jenkins

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sione Pouha spotted Kris Jenkins on the other side of the New York Jets' locker room and shouted out a special request.

"Hey, let me wear your jersey on Sunday," Pouha said.

Jenkins didn't miss a beat, maintaining his sense of humor despite being out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

"OK, but it's going to be baggy, though," the 6-foot-4, 360-pound Jenkins yelled back.

"Thanks for the compliment," the 6-3, 325-pound Pouha said with a big grin.

Pouha is one of a few "smaller" players in a committee of defensive linemen that Jets coach Rex Ryan will use to try to replace the big nose tackle. Jenkins is on injured reserve after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Jets' 16-13 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

"I found an eating partner when Kris got here last year," Pouha said, laughing. "He's a massive man. He's huge, and basically his play is huge. To come in and say, 'Yeah, you're going to replace Jenkins,' no, that's not the case. The case is to come in here and be a part of that puzzle on defense."

Howard Green, Marques Douglas, Mike DeVito and Ropati Pitoitua also are expected to see increased playing time as the Jets begin the task of filling the void left by the four-time Pro Bowl selection.

"We're going to roll that whole group," Ryan said. "I feel confident with this group, I really do. Obviously, you don't have the huge bell cow in Kris Jenkins, but we're certainly going to be good enough with this group of guys."

Pouha, in his fifth season with the Jets, has previous experience playing nose tackle and likely will be the primary replacement. He and Jenkins would often play right and left tackle, providing double trouble for offensive lines.

"Sione's proved that he's a legit NFL defensive lineman," Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "While he's no Kris Jenkins, he's not a Pro Bowler, you see the two stand next to each other and it's an optical illusion. You think Sione's small. He's not a small man at all. He's around 330 pounds and he's one of the strongest guys on the team."

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Some have said Pouha doesn't have the size to be a true nose tackle in the Jets' 3-4 defensive system.

"That's hilarious," Ryan said. "What is he, 330 pounds? Compared to Kris, I guess he's undersized. That would be anybody in the league. Kris is a giant, but Sione's huge."

Jenkins often drew double teams at nose tackle and clogged the middle of the field as a disruptive force against the run.

"That outcome? That's definitely what I want," Pouha said. "To do it the way Kris Jenkins does, like manhandling people? I probably have to sit in a diner a little bit more and sit in the weight room a little bit more to become massive and powerful like Kris."

At 6-2 and 320 pounds, Green isn't a small guy, either. He was re-signed Monday after being cut last Saturday to make room on the roster for wide receiver Danny Woodhead. But Ryan told Green to stick around last weekend because the intention was to immediately bring him back.

Now, Green finds himself in an important spot.

"It's the NFL, and you're always one play away from being that guy if you're in a backup role," the fifth-year veteran said. "You have to make plays, big plays, and we're all capable of making plays. I don't see why we all can't fill in that one little spot and make things work for us as a team."

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Douglas is a veteran who already receives lots of playing time, and DeVito has been active for all but one game. He also filled in at defensive end in the opener when Shaun Ellis was serving a one-game suspension. Pitoitua, the tallest player on the roster at 6-8, has been active for two games.

"It's something that we're definitely going to have to overcome," Pettine said. "At the same time, nobody's feeling sorry for us. We checked the mail, and there were no sympathy cards arriving from any of the other teams this week."

The Jets plan to continue to mix in 4-3 fronts with their 3-4 base, as they've been doing all season. They also won't change too much, at least for now, with how they operated with Jenkins in the lineup.

"We're anxious to get that group out there and get going and prove to people that we weren't just a one-man front, that those guys can play, too," Pettine said. "I think those guys will play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder with people thinking now that we're not going to be very good up front."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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