Kenrick Ellis quietly emerging as elite interior defensive lineman

Kenrick Ellis is a year removed from prison and now focused on improving his on-field performance. Credit: Getty Images
Kenrick Ellis is focused on improving his on-field performance.
Credit: Getty Images

According to Pro Football Focus, Jets nose tackle Kenrick Ellis is among the best interior linemen in the NFL, according to their statistics through Week 14. This after there were doubts he would ever develop into a serviceable defensive lineman.

The ranking from Pro Football Focus is judged on a per snap basis, where he is the best defensive tackle in terms of run stop percentage.

His turnaround started in the classroom of all places. Every mistake Ellis made in practice or in a game, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar would highlight in film study after. After awhile, he got tired of “being pointed at every day.” So he set about to get better and improve.

“Things I was told all my life that I didn’t take to, like using your hands. It’s easy, you hear ‘Use your hands, use your hands.’ Just getting your hands on people,” Ellis told Metro. “I was too busy trying to be physical with them. Whoever has their hands inside usually wins. You have leverage, you can control someone if your hands are on the inside.”

Ask Ellis about his play, and he quickly turns to the play of the entire defensive line, deflecting attention away from himself.

Ellis, a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, served prison time during the offseason following his rookie year stemming from an arrest in college.

During training camp, Ellis had an injury to his vertebra he was worried would keep him off the field and bury him on the depth chart – if not worse. He cited former Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha, a fan favorite who suffered a similar injury and was cut by the Jets this past offseason.

In the NFL, Ellis realized you are one injury away from never coming back.

“I’m just happy to be here competing. After I herniated a disc in my back – Sione Pouha had that injury – and you know [what happened],” Ellis said. “I hurt it on Aug. 12 in camp. I just try to compete; I don’t know what to tell you. I was down. I didn’t know how many games I was going to miss, [or] if I’d be here. That’s the great feeling, just to be here helping.”

His job is a thankless one and one of the few on the field that can’t be measured in statistics. At the center of the defensive line, his role in the 3-4 is to push the pocket and fill the gaps. It means he doesn’t get his name in the box score very often. But when Muhammad Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson get a sack, it is often the work of Ellis or fellow nose tackle Damon Harrison who pushed the pocket back so that the quarterback can’t step up.

He was always an athlete, even at 6-foot-4 and 346 pounds, but he has worked on his leverage and using his hips better. Now his outstanding footwork has combined with improved hand technique to create a matchup problem for opposing teams. The Jets force double teams with Ellis and Harrison, freeing the likes of Wilkerson, Richardson, Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace to come off the edge.

“There is more work to be done,” Ellis said. “I feel like I haven’t had a big game. There’s so much room for improvement. I’m happy just to be here. But there is more work to be done.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…