Jets DT Sione Pouha hopes to bounce back from a disaster injury season last year and become an impact player on the Jets' defense. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Every Jets player has a claim to fame. Chad Pennington is known for his leadership abilities at the quarterback position. Thomas Jones is known for his punishing ability as a running back. Justin Miller is known for his speed in the open field.
Sione Pouha, on the other hand, is known for his unique name.
A Utah Utes alum, Pouha has flown under the radar since entering the league in the 2005 season as a DT. After limited action in his rookie season, signs pointed to Pouha as potentially stepping in to coach Eric Mangini’s new 3-4 defense as an impact defender. However, an injury ended up sidelining the Salt Lake City native, setting him a year back on the rest of the defensive front.
“Mentally I was really into learning the scheme because I stayed around here during the season,” Pouha said, “so despite the limitations I had physically, I stuck with the program mentally, and managed to keep up with the other guys.”
Targeted by Mangini as a hard worker with terrific work ethic, Pouha quickly made up for the lost time, though, rehabbing his injured leg and continuing to learn the 3-4 defense after predominantly playing the 4-3 in college.
“You just have to pick out the little things you don’t do well and work on them, and I’ll be there eventually,” Pouha said.
Fast forward to the present time, Pouha now appears to be the best bet to replace Dewayne Robertson if the nose tackle were to falter or become injured. Appearing in each of the Jets first two games, Pouha has looked impressive in limited playing time, recording three tackles.
Ironically, the man whose job he is chasing has actually acted as his biggest mentor since entering the league.
“Dewayne has been a help to me ever since I’ve been here, teaching me the formations and a lot of parts of the game,” Pouha said. “The players have definitely been a big help to me.”
With some of the Gang Green faithful calling on the third-year veteran to take over for Robertson after a couple of sub-par weeks, all indications suggest Mangini is confident that Pouha could do the job if called the situation were to arise.
“I think that Sione has done really nice job,” Mangini said. “Coming back [after last year’s injury], you see some improvement every day, which is really what you’re hoping for with any player, any young player.
“He’s got good strength, he’s got a good punch,” Mangini added.
The biggest issue for Pouha probably exists in, as mentioned above, unfamiliarity at the position. Up until 2006, Pouha had always played defensive tackle instead of nose tackle, squaring him up in a different position to attack the run. Although he played on the nose sometimes, it was still a different task to undertake.
“I wouldn’t say I am there, but there are things I am getting there on, and if I continue to work on them, I’ll be all set,” Pouha said, referring to his work to advance his experience at the NT position. “I played on the nose a bit in Utah, so I had some experience.
”I just have to stay ready for when my number is called,” he added.
With the Dolphins, Bills and Patriots all frequent opponents of the Jets, stopping the run game is key for the seven men in the Jets box if New York has hopes of winning their division. Running backs Laurence Maroney, Willis McGahee and Ronnie Brown all have been or have the potential to be All Pro running backs, and can dominate the offensive flow of the game.
Anchoring the defensive attack for New York’s 3-4 run-stopping game is the nose tackle position. Robertson’s play has been suspect at times, and having a worthy backup is key if the veteran continues to struggle.
While Pouha is inexperienced at the position, his stoic, gritty demeanor in the locker room, coupled with his unparalleled hard work on the field and in the gym, seem to be shaping him up to be either the heir apparent, or No. 1 option, to replace Robertson if the need were to arise.
Thus, look out for Pouha to potentially make an impact for the Jets at some point this season, whether it be relieving Robertson for a couple plays a game or permanently filling in for him. Moreover, expecting big things from Pouha based on his unwavering determination is not a farfetched reach.
Pouha's performance, alongside Robertson, echoed this sentiment, as the two played key roles in stifling the Dolphins pass attack early in the game, getting consistent pressure on QB Trent Green. Pouha finished the game with only one tackle, but his presence and pressure were clearly seen on the field, a sign of things to come.
And, by the way; it’s pronounced See-OWN-nee BO-oo-ha.