Watch out for Jim Leonhard. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Everyone knows that the Jets are stacked on offense. LaDainian Tomlinson. D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Nick Mangold. Santonio Holmes. Braylon Edwards. Dustin Keller. All of those players are potential game changers. On defense, there's Antonio Cromartie. Darrelle Revis. Bart Scott. David Harris. Shaun Ellis. Calvin Pace. They also give opposing teams fits. It's expected that these players will step up to the plate and perform on Monday against the Patriots.
Let's take a look at three quieter Jets players who deserve plenty of credit for their play.
3. Mike DeVito, DE - DeVito entered the league as an undrafted player out of the University of Maine in 2007, as he signed a contract with the Jets. He started out as a rotational player for his first two seasons, but has emerged as a solid contributor on the Jets defense. He's a tackle machine, by 3-4 defensive end standards, and is tied for fourth on the team in tackles. In comparison, the highest ranked Patriots defensive lineman in terms of tackles is 10th place Vince Wilfork. DeVito makes plays on the line to stop them before they happen and even if he's not the only one on the player, he helps out other defenders in bringing down the opposition.
He's a solid defender against the run and has 30 first down tackles. While he does not have a sack, he is able to push back the guards who try to defend him. Luckily for the Patriots, Logan Mankins provides a solid match-up against DeVito, as does Dan Connolly. He helps other players get to the ball carrier and has a high motor. He played well enough to get a contract extension last season and looks to be a part of the Jets' future on the defensive line. He's helped contribute to one of the best run defenses in the league and he's also helped force the quarterback make some terrible throws.
He may not be a star on the defense, but he's a lunch pail guy who does his job and does it well. Look out for him on Monday.
2 and 1 after the jump!
2. Jim Leonhard, SS - Imagine Wes Welker on defense as a safety. That's basically Leonhard. He's a 5'8, 188 lb strong safety, but is always around the ball. He's not going to out-jump a receiver. He's just going to work hard to do his job and make sure nothing happens behind him. Leonhard's #2 on the Jets in tackles and has an interception to his name. He also has 3 other passes defended. If he's picking up tackles, it usually means the defense in front of him is struggling- still, he gets the job done. Leonhard also returns punts, adding to his value. He's a great returnman and is able to slip through defenders.
Hopefully, the Patriots try and exploit Leonhard in the defense. Force the Jets to match him up with a tight end like Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski; there's no way he can defend them. He may bring them down, but he won't get the ball away if it's a good throw. This is a match-up the Patriots can win if they scheme correctly. Regardless of what the Patriots do, when you watch Leonhard on Monday, you can't help but go, "...good for him."
I advise you to watch a little bit of this NFL Sound FX piece from week 4 with Leonhard mic'd up against the Bills. He's a smart player and is able to sniff out the opposing plays. Watch him always be around the ball. He's a favorite player to be asked to rush the quarterback as the Jets love sending their secondary after Tom Brady.
1. Sione Pouha, NT - Pouha is a high energy nose tackle for the Jets. For the past two seasons, he's been asked to take the place of an injured Kris Jenkins and he's performed admirably. The Jets are even more ferocious against the run with Pouha at the nose, even if he doesn't command double teams on passing downs. He's got the quickness and strength to shed a lot of blockers and is extremely capable of finishing a tackle while being blocked. Pouha is actually only one rank below DeVito on the Jets tackle charts.
Don't expect much success if and when the Patriots run up the middle with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Pouha can and will make the tackle if he's single covered. If he's double covered, that leaves Bart Scott and David Harris wide open to make the tackle. That's the power of Pouha.
To counter this, the Patriots should run the ball in two tight end sets. Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler should take the edges and even Aaron Hernandez could help out at fullback. Have the tight ends try and set the end against the outside linebackers. Hopefully Matt Light can seal off a defensive end on his own, to allow Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly to double team Pouha and have Logan Mankins reach the second level to block either Harris or Scott. This should give the Patriots 5-6 yards if it's executed well.
Fact of the matter is Pouha is a strong defender. Watch out for his line play.
So those are three Jets, who just happen to be defenders, that the Patriots need to watch out for on Monday. All three have a nose to be near the ball carrier and all three love to help stop the run. Hopefully the Patriots can execute to take these three players out of the game because it will make the offense's day a lot easier if they can generate any kind of run offense.