Considering that a record 12 defensive linemen were selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it wasn’t a shock that the Jets addressed their defensive front with the addition of Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. But then a night later when the Green & White tabbed Hampton’s Kenrick Ellis in the third round, a few assistant coaches felt a little envious of DL coach Mark Carrier.
“They kind of knew we were trying to get a defensive guy with that first pick when it was there for us,” Carrier told me on a recently taped installment of “Four Quarters” that is scheduled to air next week. “But when we drafted Kenrick — the coaches started coming down to my office and were wondering what I was doing to get that lucky. Was I Rex’s stepchild or something like that? And I said, ‘Hey, it helps to have your head coach who’s not only a defensive coach but he was also a defensive line coach.’
“But it worked out good. The fact that those two guys were there when we were drafting — we were pretty lucky.”
Carrier made the most of Wilkerson’s visit to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in early April. The Jets knew the Linden, N.J., native was talented, but they wanted to work out the Temple product, who was coming off a 70-tackle, 9.5-sack campaign for the Owls.
In order to be an elite defensive lineman, you need quality feet and excellent hands. You have to be explosive off the ball, have the ability to shed blocks and power offensive linemen backward with punches.
The Jets value versatility along their front and Wilkerson has a good size/speed combo that should allow him to move around a bit.
“The biggest surprise for me after working him out was how athletic he was,” Carrier said. “That tells you he can play outside and he’s big enough to play inside.”
New York’s AFC representative got even bigger two rounds later with Ellis. Rex Ryan couldn’t hide his delight over the weekend, saying how much he enjoyed watching the former Hampton star get way down field to make tackles.
“It’s hard to hide a guy at 330, 340 pounds running down the field and getting involved,” Carrier said. “Our mindset going into this draft was to get more athletic and here we get two of the biggest guys in the draft who are very athletic. When you watch Kenrick’s film, you see a guy who’s dominating but is also running up and down the field, which is pretty special, and not getting tired. That’s the thing you liked about him is he kept on doing it even with a bum ankle. He kept going and didn’t quit.
“I like Kenrick. He’s young, he’s developing, and his upside is tremendous. Once he gets comfortable and gets settled, he’s going to be good for us.”
Ellis was one of the few prospects this year who project as a nose tackle on the next level. The good thing for the Jets is their new space eater is used to double-team attention and he’s hungry to learn.
“In our 3-4 scheme, our interior guys — the DeVitos and the Pouhas of the world — that’s what they do a lot. We take on a lot of double teams and we free up everyone else. That’s one thing we like about him,” Carrier said.
“The one thing about Kenrick that was a pleasant surprise was what an engaging young man. This kid came in and couldn’t get enough of the classroom work. He wanted to keep getting more and more. You could see that he wanted to learn and he’s going to fit in well in our room.”
Rex Ryan continued his book tour for his just-released “Play Like You Mean It” with a stop at Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y., on Wednesday evening. And Newsday’s video journalists were on hand to record the scene, talking with Rex/Jets fans waiting on line and following them to the autograph table to get their very own signed copy of the Ryan rundown of his first two seasons as an NFL head coach.
Tags: Joey Clinkscales, Kenrick Ellis, Mark Carrier, Mike Tannenbaum, Muhammad Wilkerson, Rex Ryan
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