Kris Jenkins' presence in the Jets locker room has always been palpable. The day after the team learned that their star nose tackle and defensive cog would miss the entire season with a reinjured left ACL, there was a noticeable aura missing. The room's loudest, most gregarious and perpetually happiest member may not have been there, but the rest of the defensive linemen are ready to step up in his place.
"Everybody has been giving their best effort and that's all you can ask," DT Sione Pouha said. "Nobody has been holding back because Kris has been here. The best thing we can do is move on forward and every individual just contribute to what we have to do in our defensive scheme."
Pouha and fellow tackle Mike DeVito know all about sharing the load on the line as they've been part of the rotation for quite a while. They're now faced with a similar situation to last season when Jenkins injured his knee for the first time in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills. This go-round, Pouha and DeVito are more prepared for their new roles without the big man in the middle.
"It'll be the same thing as last year," DeVito said. "It always stinks when you lose a guy like Jenkins, a game-changer type player. This defense proved it last year, the defensive line proved it last year, and we'll do the same thing we did even better the second time around."
The duo will be joined by mainstay and veteran leader Shaun Ellis along with improving third-year man Vernon Gholston at end. Ellis had a strip sack and seven tackles against the Ravens in Week 1, Pouha had seven tackles and two fumble recoveries and DeVito also added seven tackles. That four man rotation wouldn't have been quite enough bodies for this coming Sunday's matchup with the New England Patriots, so the Jets re-acquired nose tackle Howard Green.
"It's good having big Howard back," Pouha said. "He definitely is a Jet and together we all built a brotherhood last year and are really familiar with each other. He's familiar with the defense, he understands our calls and he knows how we play and how we practice. It was good to see him here."
Green played 12 games and accumulated 23 tackles for the Jets before and after Jenkins went down last year, and he hopes to provide the same type of steady production again. While DeVito, Pouha and first-year man Matt Kroul were going to be counted on with Jenkins in the fold, now the interior linemen have to replace Jenkins' production.
"It's going to be a group effort the way we did it last year," Green said. "We didn't just put it on one person and say you have to be the guy to do all of the work and take all of the load. We just shared all the load as a group and took it on ourselves to make that happen."
Green is a good friend of Pouha and DeVito, and the two were thrilled to see their old friend return to the locker room. Besides the playbook, defensive calls and schemes, Green also apparently knows Pouha's McDonald's order by heart, the locker room's inside jokes and the culture that the Jets have established. Besides being one of DeVito's best buddies, Green was also close with Jenkins, and described what must have been a painful, bittersweet moment on Monday night when he saw Jenkins get injured.
"It's a shame to see him go down the way he did," Green said. "He's a good friend of mine. Knowing him and him working so hard to rehab to come back from that injury, to see it happen to him again, it was a sad moment for me. It opened the door for me but at the same time I felt bad for him as a person."
Green said he watched HBO's "Hard Knocks" and kept up with his Jets teammates via text message during the offseason. And Jenkins has imparted advice and motivation to Pouha and the other Jets defensive linemen over the last few days as the team focuses on the Patriots.
"He understands that there's another game coming," Pouha said. "He just told us to keep on going."