Jets: Who Will Replace Jenkins?

Kris Jenkins

Jets defensive lineman Kris Jenkins is done for the year after tearing the ACL in his knee. So what will the Jets do now? Is Albert Haynesworth a possibility?

Don't expect the New York Jets' brass to panic over Tuesday's loss of Kris Jenkins, speed-dial the "703" area code, and inquire about the price of doing business with the Redskins in a potential deal for Albert Haynesworth.

That's not to say the Jets won't explore some veteran options at nose tackle -- although 3-4 nose tackles are hard to find at any time or year, much less a week into the season -- but the likelihood they'll look into Haynesworth is remote.

So said a Jets official on Tuesday afternoon.

"Anything is possible," the respected New York management official told The Sports Xchange. "But I wouldn't hold my breath (on Haynesworth). It's not a great fit."

There's no reason to believe that Haynesworth -- who hasn't exactly embraced the switch to the 3-4 in Washington, or the move to nose tackle -- would feel differently about the defensive scheme in New York. The chance of winning might be better in New York (and that's somewhat arguable after Monday night), but Haynesworth has long been more about personal accomplishments that team aspirations.

Not that replacing Jenkins, who blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in the same left knee that limited him to six games in 2009, will be easy.

If tackle totals were the only metric for assessing the play of a nose tackle, one could argue that Sione Pouha, who will supplant Jenkins in the starting lineup for a second straight season, is the more productive player. In 16 games in 2009, 14 starts, Pouha registered 45 tackles. Only once in nine prior years -- and, granted, three of his previous seasons were truncated by injury -- did Jenkins top that tackle total. That was in 2008, his first season with the Jets, when he had 50 tackles.

But nose tackles are so much more. They are the sacrificial lambs of any 3-4 front, guys who keep blockers off linebackers, who glean vicarious pleasure from having the people around them make most of the plays. Jenkins subjugated an ego that used to be almost as big as him to fill that job description.

Pouha, 31, has been a credible fill-in, but the former Utah star, chosen in the third round in 2005, is not a front-line player. But now, once again, he'll have to be.

"Let's face it, Jenkins is a beast," said one AFC center after his Tuesday practice, when reached via cell phone. "He eats up the run, forces the double-team, like all great (nose tackles), and can collapse the inside. He's a load. The other guy (Pouha) has played well for them. But this is a big, big loss, literally and figuratively for (the Jets). The centers who have to play the Jets (in 2010), just got a reprieve."

Jenkins wasn't always a 3-4 nose tackle, but he grew into one (pay attention, Albert). Early in his career, with Carolina, he was a pure 4-3 tackle. There were a lot of pundits, when Jenkins was traded to New York in '08, who insisted he wouldn't be able to make the transition to the 3-4. But he did, and he did so well.

The torn ligament is the fourth time in seven seasons that Jenkins has sustained an injury that shortened his campaign. In none of those seasons, did Jenkins appear in more than a half-dozen games.

In 2004, he suffered a shoulder injury in Carolina, and a year later, it was his right ACL. He played in only five games those two seasons. Now, it's consecutive ACL injuries to the left knee. In three years in New York, Jenkins has participated in just 23 games. Coach Rex Ryan noted Tuesday that Jenkins will take some time to make a determination about his future, and it's awful early to speculate, that's for sure.

But for Jenkins, who lost nearly 40 pounds in the offseason, ironically in part to take some of the pressure off his surgically-repaired left knee, another round of rehab, and another comeback, might be difficult.

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