Kris Jenkins is the biggest offseason acquisition the Jets made in an offseason full of activity. He is generously listed at 335 pounds in various media outlets, but he came into camp at 359, and even that was low by Jenkins's standards.
More importantly, he is the key to everything the Jets want to be this year. They want to be a more physically imposing defense. After all, the 3-4 is driven by size. With only three down linemen, it is imperative that they be big enough to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible. Linebackers also must be big because with one less lineman in front of them, they will face one-on-one situations with 300-pound linemen.
No 3-4 position demands size more than nose tackle. In the center of the defense, they must force double-teams from guards and centers who are not big enough to block them.
Jenkins has never played the 3-4, but his size (6-4, 359) and attitude make him a near-perfect fit.
“A 3-4 nose has a different type of patience than a 4-3 tackle," he said. "In a 4-3, you can just take off and go upfield. In a 3-4, you have to be a little bit more patient,” he said. “But one of the things that I’ve kind of made a name for myself on is not moving, so I think that’s going to stay pretty consistent in a 3-4 as well."
“You have to make it easier for everyone else to do their job. That means holding up blockers or whatever you have to do to make it easier for those linebackers and those defensive backs, and that’s what I take pride in doing.”
"I never did the pretty position. I've always been a grunt. I take pride in being a grunt."
Last year's nose tackle DeWayne Robertson occasionally showed flashes of being the nose tackle, but in the end, he just was not big enough or skilled enough to fill the job. After all, he was drafted to be a 3-technique tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He was drafted for his size-speed combination as a pass rushing tackle in the mold of Warren Sapp, not for his ability to occupy linemen at the point of attack.
He was 6-1, 313 pounds. Compared to nose tackles on some of the top 3-4 defenses like Jamal Williams (6-3, 348), Vince Wilfork (6-2, 235), and Casey Hampton (6-1, 325), the former Jet has a distinct size advantage at the position.
Jenkins's presence will free up ends Kenyon Coleman and Shaun Ellis as well as the deep linebacking corps.
David Harris, Calvin Pace, Brian Thomas, Eric Barton, and rookie Vernon Gholston are all talented players. With Jenkins taking up space in the middle, they will have more room to showcase their talents.
As I wrote back on June 5th, the defense has a chance to be really good, and everything will revolve around the big man in the middle.