With the exuberant Kris Jenkins and the boisterous Bart Scott around him, an important cog in this season's Jets defense goes a little bit unnoticed. Defensive tackle Mike DeVito is the fourth man in head coach Rex Ryan's predicted rotation along the defensive line, and he hopes to be a major asset.
"I want first off for the coaches and the other guys to trust me to be in there," DeVito said today, "to keep Jenkins, Shaun [Ellis] and 'Bo' [Sione Pouha] fresh in there. If somebody gets tired, I can play all three of those spots and give them a blow and be ready to rotate through."
The 6'3", 305-pound New York City native was raised in Massachusetts, attended the University of Maine and has the ability to play defensive end, nose tackle and defensive tackle. As a Black Bear he earned All-Atlantic-10 honors twice and in his senior season made 112 tackles and 16 sacks. The Jets picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2007, and he's steadily improved, even making a start in 2009 after Kris Jenkins went down with a knee injury.
Although it was tough to see Jenkins get hurt, it meant that DeVito was able to get some valuable chances to make his mark on the field.
"It was a great opportunity," he said. "Especially this year I'm a lot more confident. You can't simulate game reps. It's the best experience you can get. It really helped out, but it's really nice to have the big man back."
During the time he was out, Jenkins sat back and watched as DeVito and Pouha filled in for him, and Big Jenks was impressed.
"As far as the interior goes," Jenkins said, "Mike DeVito is as good as any starter that we have on the team. He goes in, he plays great and he does everything. It's definitely reassuring to have a guy like that who is backing you up and backing Sione up for that matter because then that way we have some flexibility."
Now that he's seen the field and knows what to expect, DeVito has been able to show off his game-tested skills. His family, all from the tristate area, have been Jets fans since before he came to the team. They'll surely be in attendance when the Jets open up the preseason against the Giants and will get to see those talents on display.
In the meantime, he's been giving young rookie left guard Vladimir Ducasse something to think about on every play.
Ducasse said DeVito is "a very strong guy, very good player, very smart player. Just going against him not only will make me better but it will make me understand what I have to face."
DeVito, who ended last season regular-season with a career-high 28 tackles, also is a key component of the kickoff return squad by forming half of the two-man wedge that helps spring quick returners like Brad Smith.
One of the bigger plays of his career, however, was a sack of the Chargers' Philip Rivers in the Jets' playoff win last season. The workmanlike attitude and cool demeanor have impressed the coaching staff, and Ryan in particular.
"I think Mike has made huge steps," Ryan said. "I think he's ready to be a starter in this league. Those are the steps you wanted him to take. Obviously we lost Marques Douglas, who went to Miami. There's no telling how many snaps Marques played for us last year. Well, that has to be DeVito now. He's going to have to play those snaps this year."
Part of the reason for the fourth-year man's success has been the hours he spends in the weightroom. Strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi has been working with all of his players to get them into prime form, but DeVito in particular has stood out. Not only can the massive lineman squat 700 pounds, but he also won the Iron Jet award this offseason.
"Sal's program is unbelievable," DeVito said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Sal and his strength program. He gets us ready in the weightroom, running around, flexible. He has it to a specific science where he just knows specifically what each guy needs."
Getting stronger and getting into shape have been goals for every Jets player and many, like DeVito, have made vast improvements. With players taking strides, fitting into their roles and performing at high levels, the Jets defense could potentially top last year's league-leading squad.
"This will be the best defense in the NFL," DeVito said. "By far, without question, this will be the best defense in the NFL."