FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Kris Jenkins plugs up a big hole in the middle of that line of scrimmage. He leaves an even bigger whole when he’s gone. For the second year in a row, the Jets are realizing just how hard it is to continuously re-fill that hole.

Sure with the combination of Howard Green, Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha the Jets were able to have the number one total defense in the league last year. But that is last year.

This year they have the loss of Jenkins coupled with ’09 sacks league Calvin Pace to worry about. The Jets will not be so lucky to have the full attention of their defensive reserves with the outside pass rush lacking without Pace. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has already said that it will take a collective effort to fill the gaps missing from the top defense from last year.
Jets DE Shaun Ellis is one of several Jets Linemen that have to step it up with Kris Jenkins gone. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“We’re going to have to come together and work hard,” said DeVito. “The thing is we all did this last year so we know what it takes. It takes a lot of extra work. We have to play well as a unit and know where we are at all times.”

Versatile lineman DeVito, who helped fill those big shoes of Jenkins last season, has a starting role on the outside but will still be used to line up under the nose or in a 3-technique stance as well. Pouha, who had a coming-out game against the Ravens with two fumble recoveries, will be the starting defensive tackle this week against New England.

Pettine also discussed, but would not go into detail, about using defensive ends Shaun Ellis and Vernon Gholston a little differently to help fill the open voids. Gholston, who failed converting to the OLB position, has familiarity with reading a defense from the two-point stance and can offer minimal help on coverage. The newly re-signed DT Howard Green will in all likelihood not play against New England, where he was signed mid-week. Expect him to see game action the following week at Miami.

“Jenkins [and Pace] are a big loss, so collectively as a defensive line we got to step up our game and make plays,” says Green.

Jason Taylor, who was expected to spell Pace from the outside, has instead taken over his duties until his return. (INJURY UPDATE: Pace was seen riding the bike today at practice. He’s listed as OUT for this week’s game and likely next week’s game against Miami). He filled in nicely for the Baltimore game tallying three tackles, three assisted tackles and two for a loss. If anyone doubted the Taylor signing, they certainly are now thanking GM Mike Tannenbaum for it.

On the other end, OLB Bryan Thomas has stepped up nicely since the loss of Pace, arguably having his best game as a Jet. He was involved on the opening defensive strip sack with Bart Scott, and also found his way in on another sack later in the game, providing that pressure that will be missed without Pace and Jenkins.

NOTES: Rex Ryan forced a sloppy Jets teams “back to grade school” at practice today. Offensively, the team had to re-do any third down play that was not converted during practice. Ryan hopes this rights the sinking ship the Jets have been in all pre-season and during the first game with third downs. Against Baltimore they were 1-for-11 on third down conversions, with lone conversion coming late in the fourth quarter.

Look for the Jets to tone done all the pre-snap shifts and motions this week against New England. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has drawn criticism for the complicated bells and whistles to his offense, which is supposed to put players in favorable match-ups, but has made second-year starter Sanchez look lost or timid at times.

Defensively, the Jets were getting a bit of leg work in. When a defender was called for a penalty, the rest of the unit would be forced to do up-downs or push-ups while the player who committed the foul would run laps around the rest of the defensive unit. The Jets were called for 12 penalties for over 100 yards in the 10-9 loss to Baltimore. “We’re going to do anything, whatever it takes to solve this,” said Ryan after practice. “That’s what we’re going to do. I know it’s an old high-school trick, but sometimes those old high-school tricks still work on this level.”

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