While Kris Jenkins has been out for the past week during training camp due to a calf injury, other big guys on the Jets roster have felt a new sense of motivation at the defensive tackle position.
"The opportunity for us to get in there and get some reps and get looks is there, and whether Kris is in there or not, it's always good to be ready," said defensive tackle Sione Pouha after Sunday morning's practice.
Head coach Rex Ryan is confident and has affirmed before that an injury to any player will not hold this team back. He sees it rather as an opportunity for other guys to step up.
"If we've got some guys down, we still expect you to play your tail off," said Ryan. "By having Jenkins out, this allows Sione to get more work and it allows Howard Green to get more work. It's been a blessing for some of those guys."
"This is the way the team is built — everyone has each other's back," said Green after Monday morning's practice. "No matter who's in, the level of play shouldn't go up or down because we all expect the same thing from each other every play. Not 'OK, this guy is in, he's going to give a lesser effort,' no. It's the same thing. We just line up, keep guys fresh and kick the offense in the butt."
The slimmed-down 6'2", 320-pound Green walked off the field along with the 6'3", 325-pound Pouha a little bit later on Sunday morning and it wasn't because they were signing autographs. They've been putting in extra work with defensive assistant Jeff Weeks learning new techniques.
"Different coaches call for different schemes. They are going to be different in terms of X's and O's. But the way you approach it is the same way," said Pouha. "You go at it and give it all you've got, practice hard, play hard and those things stay constant."
Green, who played as a 4-3 DT with Seattle last season, is also becoming more familiarized with Ryan's and Mike Pettine's 3-4 scheme as camp wears on.
"There are a lot of differences, like getting used to playing over of the center a lot. More head-up, zero-type techniques. In Seattle we just slid right and left, played the shade most of the time. There are different concepts and different language. It may mean the same thing but it's worded differently, so you have to relearn new terminology."
Ryan uses a defensive system in which he mixes personnel up by putting players in positions to be effective. Green likes how alternating players allows them to give 100 percent each play.
"It's a big help. It keeps guys fresh. You can go out there and put in three, four plays in a row hard, full-speed," said Green. "You do that all game, you figure in a game you might have 25, 30 plays apiece, if that. You're going full speed every time, so that's to your advantage and the offense's disadvantage. That's the good thing about rotating and keeping guys fresh."
Pouha, the fifth-year veteran, has found his role in the new defense as well and is ready for Ryan's instructions.
"He uses all his players in terms of where they fit the best," Pouha said. "Wherever he needs me to go in and play, I'll go in and do it."
Jenkins may be back practicing any day, but the reserves are getting valuable reps against the first-string offensive line in his absence.
"It's one of the best O-Lines I've seen," said Green. "I played against them last year when they came up to Seattle so I had a taste already of what it's going to be like. After that game I said they were one of the best O-Lines as a unit that I've played against in my career. As a whole there is no one weak guy that you could point out and say he's weaker than the others. It's a strong unit all the way across."
Guys are willing to play hard in Jenkins' absence, but they look forward to his return to action because they like playing with the veteran DT. They're not worried about not getting playing time, because Ryan's system allows for each talented player to get on the field.
"In terms of Kris being out, were glad it's not a game week," said an unselfish Pouha.
And Big Jenk is helping them out as much as he can off the field and in the locker room, giving them tips along the way.
"Kris is a great guy. I love him to death," said Green. "He comes and brings that extra little bit of joy you need. He makes you smile. We laugh, we joke. He evens up the room a little and levels things off."
Green, a guy who's been with six teams in seven seasons (including 2005 and '06 on the training camp rosters with New Orleans and Miami), hopes he's finally found a home with the Jets.
"I'm here right now and hopefully I'll be here for a long time, but all I can do is come out here and perform and play and make them want me," said the unrelenting DT. "That's how I look at it, you have to make them want you and make it hard for them to say 'We have to get another guy, or get rid of this guy to bring a new one in.' So I just try to make their job hard by going out and contributing, doing what it takes to win."