When general manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Sione Pouha with a three-year, $15 million contract on the first day of free agency the Jets quietly made a big splash. How fitting because the phrase “quietly made a big splash” might be best used when describing Pouha’s 2011 season with the team.

Drafted in the third round out of Utah in 2005 with such labels as “raw” or “project” Pouha emerged as not only a team leader but stout run stopper in Rex Ryan’s pivotal 3-4 nose tackle position, shaking off any labels in the process.

The job required of a 3-4 nose tackle is a pretty thankless one: often taking on multiple blockers while letting the pass rushers and linebackers get all the credit and camera time. That’s where ProFootballFocus.com comes to the rescue, yet again. They’ve developed a stat called Run Stop Percentage, which determines the amount of times a defensive player causes and offensive failure as a percentage of how many plays he is in on defense.

Once thought of as simply a facilitator, Pouha’s 2011 season proved that he can shed multiple blockers, make plays and get some time in the spotlight as well. Here’s a glance at his numbers, according to PFF’s study:

  • Run Snaps – 353
  • Tackles – 41
  • Assists – 8
  • Missed Tackles – 2
  • Run Stops – 36
  • Run Stop % – 10.2

A quick analysis of those numbers suggest that Pouha was regularly in on running plays (353) and rarely missed an opportunity to strike (twice), making the most of them when presented (36 run stops). As PFF’s graph shows, those numbers are comparable or better than some of the marquee nose tackles in the game including Vince Wilfork, Cullen Jenkins and Broderick Bunkley.

Taking those statistics into account, coupled with his leadership (an unquantifiable quality) and understanding of the complexity behind Ryan’s 3-4 schemes the re-signing looks like a steal for the Jets at a position that, nowadays, comes at a premium. And at 33 with limited playing time earlier in his career, his legs are young so to speak.

“Yeah, I guess if you look at it statistically, by snap count or what have you, you could look at it that I’m a younger 33,” Pouha said.

Looking at it statistically, the deal is full of value considering some of his sexier contemporaries have received mega-deals since the start of 2010. Casey Hampton, a true 3-4 nose tackle, is entering the second year of a 3-year deal worth $21 million with $11 million in guarantees. Ndamukong Suh signed his rookie deal at five years, $60 million with $40 million in guarantees. Former Ryan prodigy Haloti Ngata inked a 5-year deal before last season worth $61 million — $40 million being paid out over the first two years. And most recently the Patriots’ Wilfork got a 5-year, $40 million contract extension with $25 million guaranteed.

Fellow free agent nose tackle, albeit in the 4-3, Bunkley, has yet to sign with a team.

Each of the above mentioned players are making more than Pouha, but none of them had a higher run stop percentage than the Gang Green’s gang buster. Not to say that Pouha is flat out better than those players, rather Tannenbaum did not reach to retain a budding star capable of playing at a comparably high level.

With $9.5 million in guarantees, $3.5 million up front and some job security Pouha is finally enjoying the ripe fruits recognition has to offer — a gift of many thanks.
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