2009 in Review: Biggest Pleasant Surprises

3. Mike Devito: Last year Devito was a guy who seemed to get a decent push in the passing game but got sealed too often in the run game. He improved a lot under Rex Ryan. Part of it had to do with scheme. Mike saw time inside when the Jets showed 4-3 looks instead of the 3-4 end he lined up at primarily last year. Even so, he was excellent against the run. Defensive line depth was a major concern entering the year, but Devito's play helped make the second team strong.

2. Shonn Greene: Perhaps this wasn't a surprise to anybody who watched him play at Iowa in 2008, but it didn't seem like Shonn was going to see too many carries behind Thomas Jones and Leon Washington entering the season. Washington's injury gave him a chance, and he made the most of it. There were some midseason fumble problems, but he ended the year taking a lot of carries away from Jones in critical games. A 5 yard average is excellent. Greene has a rare combination of power and burst. He's a star in the making.

1. Sione Pouha: People did not make enough of how well Pouha played. I include myself in that number. Think back to how down things seemed when Kris Jenkins got injured. He left a huge hole in the middle of the defense. Pouha stepped in and did an excellent job on the nose. He may not have been as big of a playmaker as Jenkins. He certainly lacked the first step and athleticism to consistently penetrate into the backfield. Even so, he constantly tied up blockers and held the point of attack. Much was made of the pass rush and the play of the secondary during the year. Did you know Gang Green also was in the top ten of yards allowed per carry? There's no debating how important the nose tackle is on a team with a base 3-4. A website called Pro Football Focus that scouts every play of every game said Pouha was the best tackle against the run in the entire league. Watch out when Jenkins returns next year. If Rex Ryan wants to play 4-3, nobody will be able to run against a tackle combo of Kris and Sione. In the base 3-4, I think Pouha will be on the nose, and the Jets will be able to play Jenkins at end to create mismatches. No player improved from 2008 to 2009 on this team like Pouha. I have memories of him being driven back on every play last season. This season he showed his worth as an excellent starter.

What Jets do you consider the year's most pleasant surprises?

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