I thought the defensive line would be very good in 2013, and they largely met expectations. Muhammad Wilkerson was the best 3-4 defensive end in the league outside of J.J. Watt, and Wilkerson looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler. At the other end spot, the Jets rotated first round pick Quinton Coples with incumbent Mike DeVito. Coples delivered as a pass rusher while DeVito was stout as usual against the run. And while DeVito is an unrestricted free agent and could follow Mike Pettine to Buffalo (although rumor is he wants to stay), Coples has the ability to develop into an every-down player as early as next year. The Jets don’t have anything behind Wilkerson and Coples, but depth can be addressed.
At defensive tackle, the outlook is more ominous. Sione Pouha was perhaps the top nose tackle in the NFL in 2011, but a back injury in training camp ruined his 2012. The downgrade in play at nose tackle was the biggest reason for the Jets struggles on the line last year — New York ranked 2nd in adjusted line yards in 2011 but dropped to 18th in 2012. The bigger issue moving forward: Pouha’s due to make $4.9 million next year, which is simply too much for a player with his age/injury combination. Ideally, the team restructures his contract (or releases and resigns him) and he regains his form in 2013. But that is only a best-case scenario at this point. Kenrick Ellis, a second round pick in 2011 who saw increased playing time with Pouha sidelined, would be the natural replacement. Unfortunately, Ellis, who was considered raw out of Hampton, and has disappointed in his short career.