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Jets look to draft for help on defensive line

The Jets will look to the draft to

The Jets will look to the draft to bolster their defensive line, which includes talented but aging veterans like Shaun Ellis. (Dec. 3, 2009) Credit: AP

He praised the Jets' pipeline of reserve defensive linemen, explaining how the organization thinks a lot of them. He even rattled off the names of Ropati Pitoitua and Matt Kroul, who totaled 48 snaps last season - all by Pitoitua.

But despite general manager Mike Tannenbaum's lovefest, the Jets have an obvious need on an aging defensive line. Shaun Ellis remains productive but is nearing 32 and entering his 11th season. Kris Jenkins turns 31 in August, and even though he's progressing well, he's coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

They could even use a pass-rushing outside linebacker - which is why they're pursuing unrestricted free agent Jason Taylor - because it's painfully obvious that 2008 first-round pick Vernon Gholston, who has been tagged with the "bust" label, isn't the answer.

So look for the Jets to pick up some front-line help in this week's NFL draft.

"I don't think necessarily we have to take somebody in the first two picks, but we want to add another player in there to have sustainable success up front," Tannenbaum said last week. "Rex has a very detailed approach of what he looks for attribute-wise on the defensive line. We're all keenly aware of it. So hopefully we'll add at least one or two players at that position."

Of course, the Jets could face a challenge if they select a player who played in a 4-3 scheme in college. The Jets employ an aggressive 3-4 defense, and sometimes it's difficult to predict how a 4-3 player will fare because he is asked to do totally different things and may have had dissimilar responsibilities in his college system.

"In the 3-4, the difference is how you play the nose tackle and how you play the end and linebacker," Jets vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales said. "You have the different teams that play the 3-4 differently. It depends on the player. A lot of guys in college who [were] down linemen can play linebacker because of their athleticism."

If you ask Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, his team may be in luck. The 2010 draft class has many defensive linemen and outside linebackers who can fit right in with what the Jets like to do.

"I think this is one year where to me, like the 3-4 conversions, there are more of those guys that are capable of doing that," Bradway said. "There are more guys that we feel comfortable with in those kinds of positions. There are some teams now in college that are going to the 3-4, so we're starting to see a little bit of that and more players available to us."

Said Clinkscales: "There are a number of guys that can come in and do different things because they're athletic. They can run and they're tough."

That crop includes Texas' Sergio Kindle and Texas Christian's Jerry Hughes, among others. Rex Ryan loves guys who can move around and play on different parts of the field, so the Jets probably would look to select someone who's already comfortable doing just that.

"If you watched us play last year, you know how versatile Rex wants to be with our defense," Bradway said. "Players have to be interchangeable. There is no real square peg-round hole. [There is] a little bit less of that because of the ability to play guys in different spots."


A look at a few notable defensive linemen and outside linebackers in this week's draft:


6-3, 250, DE, Texas

Explosive pass rusher with the speed and agility to turn the corner quickly and get to the QB. Some say he projects best as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He was a two-year starter for the Longhorns and second-team All-Big 12 in 2009.


6-5, 270, DE, South Florida

Intriguing because of his upside. Played for three programs and spent only one season at South Florida. Has a nice burst and gets off the ball quickly.


6-2, 255, DE/OLB, TCU

Over the past two seasons, he's been one of the top college pass rushers, with an array of moves. Negatives: May be a bit undersized, and considered by some to be a "tweener."


6-5, 304, DT, Penn State

Strength and size could make him a nice DE in a 3-4. Must work on moves and not get neutralized in double-teams.


6-6, 277, DE, Florida

Despite being 6-6, he ran a 4.7 40 at the combine. Adept at bull-rushing; knows how to use his hands. But he has character issues; he has a DUI arrest and is said to lack a great work ethic.

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