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Kenrick Ellis: Stay or Go?

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The first two years of Kenrick Ellis' career have been uneven. That was not entirely unexpected. The interior of the defensive line is not an easy spot to play. It takes a lot of good players a few years to master. For Ellis the learning curve was probably a bit steeper than the average player. Playing college ball at a small school like Hampton, he was so much physically better than his competition that he was able to dominate without using proper technique.

So far with the Jets we have seen a very physically gifted player. Ellis has shown flashes where he totally dominates. He has incredible athletic ability for a 346 pound man. When he gets a good jump off the ball, gains leverage, and uses proper technique, he can look like Kris Jenkins. These moments have just been flashes, however. There have been too many instances where he has lost leverage and been totally blown off the ball.

Again, there are players who became forces who got off to similar starts. There are also players who never made the jump. It is very difficult to see which of these Ellis will turn into. The fact he has Karl Dunbar gives me hope.

You do not want to have to depend on somebody like Kenrick Ellis to make the leap, but that might be the situation the Jets find themselves in. They almost have to entrust the important nose tackle position to him. They don't have the money to spend on anybody good from the outside. Even if Sione Pouha returns, his back might prevent him from ever being effective again. If Mike Devito returns, he might not be able to hold up on the nose full time. You pick players in the Draft hoping they can fill holes when those holes arise. The Jets have a hole at nose tackle. Ellis is probably going to have to fill it for better or worse.

If you get bad play at nose tackle, it can sink your team. The nose tackle's job is to occupy multiple blockers to prevent them from being able to block the linebackers. If your guy cannot do that, your linebackers get wiped out. If your guy can do that, your defense is in good shape. If your guy can beat a double team and collapse the pocket, it is extraordinarily difficult for the offense to function. Ellis has the ability to be the third kind of guy, but we have only seen him be the first kind of guy.

2013 could amount to a make or break year for Ellis. If he makes good on his potential, the Jets are going to have an extremely talented defensive line causing chaos for opponents for years to come paired with Wilkerson and Coples. In what figures to be a transitional year, the best move might be to throw as much at Ellis as possible and see whether he can rise.