Going into the season opener at Houston on Sunday, the Jets will be without two key defensive starters from last year — linebacker Calvin Pace and end Shaun Ellis. It's likely that the Texans will try to attack them at those positions, but that doesn't worry third-year defensive end Mike DeVito.
"If they target me, they target me. That's what it is," said DeVito. "But that's what I'm getting paid for, to go out there and do my job."
Though DeVito hasn't been told if he will start, he's going to be ready for whatever role he's given. But filling the void left by the Big Katt's absence is no small task, as the longest-tenured Jets has accumulated 566 tackles and 61.5 sacks in his career going into his 10th season.
"Shaun is like my older brother," said DeVito. "I appreciate everything he has done for me. He really has taken me under his wing. I'm really grateful to have him as a friend and someone I can turn to to help me get better and grow in this game."
Second-year linebacker Vernon Gholston knows all about improving his game, showing glimpses in the preseason of why the Jets drafted him sixth overall in 2008. He'd been seen more and more in the faces of opposing quarterbacks and got his first pro sack in the last preseason game against Philadelphia.
But that was preseason, a mere momentum booster leading into the season.
"I'm trying to get one this week and keep going with it," said No. 50.
Gholston will get the starting nod at OLB and even line up with his hand in the dirt at times while replacing the suspended Pace for the first four games. He said this year's off-season has been very beneficial to him.
"I'm comfortable running the scheme," he said. "It always takes some time, sometimes it takes years. But with OTAs and going through training camp, you get comfortable out there doing it and running it and you kind of know what to expect. That's the biggest thing that I got from camp this year."
Head coach Rex Ryan is confident with the reserves filling in for the starters for as long as they're needed.
"You put that Jets decal on that helmet, you've got to be special," said Ryan. "You don't have to go do something Herculean. We just want you to give us everything you've got and that's it. You don't have to go be Superman. Give us everything you've got and we'll live with the results."
The Jets will face a Texans team that ranked third in total offense last season. Playing in a defensive system that likes to dictate the way an offense plays rather than the other way around, it's important for the Jets D to stick to its gameplan.
"Who's to say that's what's going to happen this year?" said Gholston. "A lot of teams come out and try to establish new tendencies, a lot of teams switch coordinators, get a new offense. The biggest thing for us is that we know what we're doing and keying on that and play hard."
Though it can be tough to play on the road, some see playing away from the comforts of the Meadowlands as an advantageous way to begin the season.
"For me, I think sometimes I play better on the road than I do at home because you feel like your back is against the wall so you have to fight a little harder," said Gholston. "But the biggest thing for us is just the mental aspect, sticking to what we do."
After playing against one of the most mobile quarterbacks around last week against Philly, the Jets on Sunday will face a quarterback who's most dangerous in the pocket in Matt Schaub. However, Schaub reportedly sprained his ankle in the third preseason game.
"Anytime you can get away from those mobile quarterbacks it's good. Last time I was out there chasing Michael Vick," said Gholston. "You go from the extreme to a guy with a hurt ankle, so it makes you feel a little bit more comfortable."
The Texans also have two other weapons that Jets' defenders will be prepared for, WR Andre Johnson and RB Steve Slaton. Along with Schaub, they make a formidable trio that demands attention.
"We know it's going to be tough," said Ryan. "It's going to take everything we've got and we'll find out if that's good enough. I can honestly tell you we're planning on giving it everything we have."
"Whatever they do," said DeVito, "we're going to be prepared for it."