Shaun Ellis puts the arm on an unsuspecting Brooks Bollinger
Shaun Ellis had done it before against the same quarterback, flying around the right tackle, building up his momentum for a sack. But Ellis would stop just short, since on those occasions quarterback Brooks Bollinger was wearing the red practice jersey and he his green practice jersey, and hitting the QB was forbidden.
That was as recently as last summer.
On Friday night, during the Jets' 37-20 preseason loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Ellis finally got a chance to finish a sack on Bollinger, not once, but twice.
"You know Brooks did a good job of hard-counting," said Ellis, who laughed when asked what it was like going against his old teammate. "A couple times he almost got me to jump. I had to hold back a little bit."
But not enough to prevent him from getting two sacks, a feat he last accomplished during the 2006 regular season against Indianapolis.
With the Jets down, 21-6, and under seven minutes to play in the second quarter, Ellis made a speed rush around RT Marcus Johnson to get to Bollinger as he dropped back to pass on third down.
"I just got up on the edge on him, knocked his hands down and got around the corner," he said.
Ellis crumpled Bollinger with a clean sack and the ball came loose. The defensive end completed the play by pulling the football close to his body underneath the pile for the fumble recovery to set up a Jets touchdown before the half.
On the ensuing Vikings series, Ellis got Bollinger again, this time pulling him down from behind as the pocket collapsed.
While victimizing Bollinger twice, Ellis, in his eighth year with the Jets, promoted his ex-teammate from the new perspective of having to go against him in a live game situation.
"Brooks is a good quarterback," he said. "He's a competitor; he knows how to run the offense well. It was good going against him."
Ellis was the bright spot on a night when the Jets defense had difficulty finishing tackles. The Vikings, behind sensational rookie RB Adrian Peterson, made them pay for their mistakes. On a pivotal drive in the second quarter, Peterson ripped off a 43-yard run, juking and spinning away from the Jets defense.
Peterson would eventually finish the drive by plowing 3 yards into the end zone to make it 21-6, a comfortable lead the Vikings would not relinquish the rest of the game.
While the Jets' offense was responsible for four turnovers, the defensive players focused on their responsibilities and the drive they would like to have back.
"I think Minnesota just did a great job of cracking us," Ellis said. "You've just got to be more aware of what teams try to do to us and just tackle better. I think it all boils down to tackling.
"The main thing we have to do is go into the next week and correct our mistakes. We're still tuning up for our first game so hopefully we can get everything fixed for that opener."
LB Jonathan Vilma agreed with Ellis' assessment and believes the defense as a unit will benefit from the upcoming week of practice in being able to diagnose what went wrong.
"It's not a lot of things. It's definitely not a lot of things," said Vilma. "We can go off the field and we can pinpoint the mistakes and understand where we messed up at, where we broke down at. So there's not a lot of things to correct. It's just the little things and it's always going to be the little things that we need to correct and improve."