If the adage is true that defense wins championships, then the New York Jets' run at the title will be led by
"He dominated our guys," said an NFC personnel executive. "He is big, strong and athletic. He fights through double and triple teams, and takes up space so that their linebackers can run and hit."
Jenkins, who was acquired from the Carolina Panthers in a trade during the offseason, has smoothly made the transition from playing as a "three-technique" in the Panthers 4-3 to occupying the nose tackle spot in the Jets' 3-4. The differences on the surface don't appear to be major, but moving a player who has spent his entire career as a penetrator to a "two-gap" is typically a difficult one.
The 6-foot-4, 339 pound defender's role with the Panthers was simply to shoot through his assigned gap on the way to the ballcarrier or quarterback. The Jets' 3-4 requires him to "two gap," which means he's required to fill the gaps on both sides of the center.
His ability to create penetration has forced opponents to double and triple team inside, allowing the Jets' linebackers to run freely to ballcarriers in the running game. Consequently, the Jets' run defense ranks third in yards allowed per game (78.0) and has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. That's a dramatic improvement over the 134.8 yards allowed per game in 2007, and the nine 100-yard rushers who destroyed the Jets.
However, Jenkins' impact stretches beyond that. His presence also has enabled the team to field one of the league's top pass rushes. With Jenkins destroying the middle of protection schemes, the Jets have freed up
"[Jenkins] has definitely taken their defense to another level," said an AFC scout.
The Jets became relevant when they added