In the second installment of our ranking of the top 25 New York Jets, we will look at player who is far from a household name. Nose tackle Kenrick Ellis was a third round pick back in 2011, but he was never able to earn a starting job with the Jets. Now, I know what you’re thinking. How on earth does a player with just 41 career tackles, including 16 last season, make a list of a team’s top 25 players? However, a closer look reveals that Ellis is much more impactful than traditional stats can reveal.
There is one thing to make clear here, and that is that it is not Ellis’ job to record tackles or sacks. He comes in to defend the run by occupying linemen and plugging gaps, allowing other players to come up and make the tackle. It is not a glamorous job, but it is one that was vital to a Jets’ run defense that finished third in total yards allowed and first in yards per carry. Damon Harrison received a lot of publicity for his breakout season (and deservedly so), but his backup made a pretty significant leap forward as well.
Run Stop Percentage is a metric that measures a defensive lineman’s effectiveness against the run, and last year Ellis turned in a brilliant season. According to Pro Football Focus, Ellis recorded a 14.9% Run Stop Percentage, which led the NFL and was the second highest figure in the league over the last six seasons. Granted, Ellis’ performance came in a small sample size, with 210 total snaps and 114 against the run, but the fact remains that he was very effective in the role he was given.
Ellis is in the final year of his contract, and he is not going to force his way past Harrison into the starting lineup. However, Ellis’ presence is a huge asset to the Jets in short yardage and goal line situations, and he proved last season that he has one elite skill. Like most nose tackles, Ellis is not likely to receive a ton of attention, but he should be credited for the huge step he took in his third year. Ellis absolutely deserves be considered among the Jets’ best players, and don’t be surprised if he continues to perform this season and lands a sizeable contract in 2015.
Previously: No. 25 Bilal Powell