After a solid season last year, Jets DE Shaun Ellis can't wait for September
- From the brand new state of the art turf under him, to the new rookie wrecking ball DT next to him, to the solid season back at his preferred end position behind him, Shaun Ellis is primed for a 2003 campaign in which he flattens the target in front of him. Repeatedly.
"My thing is that I have just got to get more sacks," said the Jets fourth year defensive end. "Last year I played consistent, but what d-linemen get graded on is sacks. So my thing is to try to get more sacks."
After weathering a difficult 2001 season in which he was moved to defensive tackle for much of the year, Ellis delivered a strong 2002 season, starting all 18 games during the Jets AFC East Championship winning run.
While the 2002 numbers for Ellis were not eye-popping (36 solo tackles, 4 sacks), his steady performance drew praise from the coaching staff and fans alike. At the close of the Jets recent OTAs at Hofstra, Ellis looked forward to building on the momentum in the upcoming season. "I feel good, man," he said with a smile, "I am just ready to play."
And why shouldnt he be? The Jets traded up to pick stud DT Dewayne Robertson in the 2003 draft, and the attention this kid promises to draw in the middle can only help the aspirations Ellis has to wreak havoc in the backfield on a more regular basis.
"He is going to help a lot with the push up the middle," said Ellis about his new linemate. "With him coming up the middle...he is a good addition. We needed more pass rush, and I think he will be a key part in our defense."
Another new addition that figures to help Ellis and the rest of the Jets pass rush is the new Field Turf installed at the Meadowlands for the 2003 season. After mucking around on the embarrassingly poor Giants Stadium grass tray experiment for the past couple of seasons, the Gang Green d-line should be able to fully leverage its explosive speed and deliver a new (dare I say it?) home-field advantage.
"I think it is going to help. I think the turf is going to be good for us," said Ellis about the new surface. "Instead of slipping, we will be able to get a good, smooth takeoff -- not stepping up and trying not to fall. We have a fast team, and I think it is going to benefit us."
Speed will absolutely be a key in the success of the Jets defense this year -- speed as in how fast they come out of the gates as a cohesive, disciplined unit at the start of the season.
Trying to work seven new starters into the mix last season, the defense struggled through a maddening first 5 games, yet came together to dominate down the stretch and help carry the Jets to their second AFC East title in 5 years. Shaun Ellis is confident that the d-line can step up and be the dominant force many are expecting them to be in 2003, right from the start. "We are trying to work towards that. We are all trying to do our part, to just come in as a total unit and be good at what we do."