Jets fans will see fresh faces at the defensive end spot in the team's formidable front seven this season, and the team is excited about the new look, despite the inexperience.
With Shaun Ellis gone, first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson will step in and start Week One. Wilkerson has been solid this preseason, as he shifts to a 3-4 after playing 4-3 at Temple. We hear the team loves his natural ability to get after the passer. While he had a rookie mistake — getting ejected in a preseason game for taking a swing at Giants RB Brandon Jacobs — the team still has plenty of confidence putting him out there to start.
Ropati Pitoitua missed the entire 2010 season but has come off his Achilles injury in good form. At 6-8, 315, Pitoitua has great size on the edge and can get his hands on the football. He played in eight games in '09 and we hear the team had big plans for him last season. Now he can keep some pressure off Wilkerson.
The third young player who will factor in the rotation is Marcus Dixon, who played in three games last season, spending most of the campaign on the practice squad. The Jets' brass hasn't been shy about what it believes Dixon can bring to the field. "(Dixon) is going to be a good football player for us," GM Mike Tannenbaum said back in April.
Wilkerson, Pitoitua and Dixon join veteran Mike DeVito as the team's defensive ends this season. The way we hear it, the team believed it was thin there last season behind DeVito and Ellis, and the added depth should help the linebackers as well. One daily team observer believes that the vocal leader of the front seven, ILB Bart Scott, wanted some more, bigger bodies up front. DeVito himself is one of the more underrated D-ends in the game, and he leads this young group by example with his play on the field stopping the run.
There is also young talent on the inside behind starting DT Sione Pouha in the form of third-round rookie Kenrick Ellis. Ellis is extremely raw and needs to work on his technique, but the team isn't letting him go anywhere.
The Jets are taking a risk by counting on Wilkerson, Pitoitua and Dixon, as the three have combined for a total of 12 NFL games played, but they appear confident in the group and like its depth.
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