Kenrick Ellis excited to play with Eli Manning, adjusting to new role with Giants
Kenrick Ellis is a changed man.
He's switched teams, coming from the Jets to the Giants as a free agent this winter. He's moved positions, going from a nose tackle in the middle of a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 defensive tackle. He's lost weight, dropping to 335 pounds after playing at around 355 last season.
But the biggest difference has very little to do with him.
"The biggest thing is seeing a starting quarterback, a Super Bowl-winning starting quarterback," Ellis told Newsday of the cross-town shift to Club Manning. "Practice is run a little bit different just because he's so efficient and doing such a great job. I've never seen that before."
Ellis, 27, spent the first four years of his career with the Jets. The last two were with Geno Smith as the starting quarterback. The one before that was the year Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow dueled for reps in training camp. In 2011, Ellis' rookie season, the Jets were coming off back-to-back AFC title games with Sanchez and started to stray from the "ground-and-pound" philosophy that had brought them there.
"I'm a young guy so I haven't been in the league long," Ellis said. "This is my fifth year. And I've never played with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback before, someone who has already done it, seeing the way he approaches the game. It's pretty cool."
He said that kind of play from the quarterback trickles down to the rest of the team in practices, even on defense.
"We have to be on point, we have to be sharp, because if you have any kind of meltdowns or anything, he'll exploit it," Ellis said.
He wouldn't go as far as to say that he thinks he has a better shot of winning a championship here with the Giants than he did with the Jets.
"Every team I'm on I feel like we have a shot to win the Super Bowl," he said. "That should be a goal of anybody who plays this game. It doesn't matter where you are at, what team you are on, that should be a goal every time."
But, he did concede that it helps everyone's confidence.
"Morale here is great," he said. "We're working really hard. We're trying to get where we need to be and try to restore the glory of the Giants."
Ellis could be a part of that. He was brought in to help bulk up the run defense, but he had to shed those 20 pounds to do it.
"I'm learning," he said. "It's a lot different being that I was a nose tackle, so I was just sitting in the middle. There is a lot of movement (at defensive tackle). The learning curve is pretty steep but I accept the challenge and I'll keep working and we'll see how it all pans out."
He's also learning how to play at his new size.
"It's an adjustment," he said. "I'm getting used to it. Things are a lot easier for me now than they were when I was at 350, 355. But I still have to adjust to it. I feel great, though."
He did not commit to playing at 335 this season, saying he and the Giants would see how it works and make adjustments.
That's what Elli's last few months have been all about: Adjustments. Even though he's still technically playing in the same city, he had to move closer to the Giants facility.
"We were 45 minutes west of here," he said. "That type driving in the morning was not going to be ideal."
While he is excited to have a quarterback with two Super Bowl rings, he's interested in getting one of his own.
"I knew about the tradition here," he said of the defensive dominance of some of the Giants' championship teams. "It's fun to try to match their intensity and match their level. We watched a lot of film of some of those guys and they were amazing. We're going to work really hard to try to get close to their level if not on their level."
And Manning's level as well.