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Lange: Adaptation name of game for Ellis

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Adaptation name of game for Ellis

Monday, July 31, 2006



HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Shaun Ellis, fresh from a steamy, sweating Sunday morning training camp practice, wasn't offering the politically correct statement about returning to life as a 3-4 defensive end.

"Two-gapping?" he said. "Yeah, that was something I never wanted to see again."

But one of Ellis' strengths as a pillar of the Jets' defense for the previous six seasons is his adaptability.

"You know what? It's a project," he said. "I've been out of this system for a while, and now it's back in place. I've got to work on my technique more and get back into it."

Ellis is one large, honest dude. One year after he stated the defense's goal under coordinator Donnie Henderson was "to be No. 1 in everything," he has no such publicly-stated hopes for the scheme of coach Eric Mangini and coordinator Bob Sutton.

"I really can't speculate about how we'll do," he said. "You can't be selfish in this [3-4] defense. Everybody has his responsibilities he has to be accountable for. It's not like the 4-3 where you have a little more freedom. Everybody's got to work together. It's like a puzzle."

The puzzle of Ellis' NFL career is shaped like a full circle. He was the Jets' first pick, 12th overall, in the 2000 draft and spent most of his rookie season as a 280-pound 3-4 end, playing head-up on the tackle and protecting the gaps on both sides.

Then Herm Edwards replaced Al Groh and Ellis became a 3-technique defensive tackle. He bulked up to more than 300 pounds and played the position for all of one game before Edwards realized Ellis needed to be moved back outside.

From there, Ellis dropped to 290, settled in at 4-3 strong-side end for four years, made the Pro Bowl and became one of the leaders in the locker room.

Now he's at 280 again, having lost 10 pounds this off-season "to create more stamina," and he's two-gapping again.

Mangini appreciates Ellis' contributions to the program he's trying to grow in the heat of this Hempstead summer.

"Shaun has taken on a leadership role," Mangini said. "He's done some really good things in terms of working with the young guys, trying to help them get adjusted. That's been a positive."

Meanwhile, Ellis must adjust his own expectations. After totaling 23.5 sacks in 2003-04, he was planning to bounce back from last season's disappointing 2.5 sacks. Yet he knows it won't be easy to pressure the QB from end if the Jets line up in the 3-4 as often as they have the first five practices of camp.

"You've just got to look at New England," he said. "All 3-4 teams don't have a lot of sacks. [Patriots DE Richard] Seymour is considered one of their best linemen and what does he average a season? Eight sacks?"

Actually, the previous three seasons on the Pats' defense that Mangini coached and helped coordinate, Seymour led the linemen but with a tame 5.7-sack average.

Yet Ellis is not getting grumpy about sack prospects. He knows the 3-4 is a "proven" alignment used by the last three Super Bowl winners and notes that Mangini and Sutton are preaching flexibility in how the Jets will line up each game.

And he's not looking back. He's rolling up his sleeves and preparing for the next assignment.

"I don't think anybody's had as much change as we've had. But change is good," he said. "It's not a knock on Herm or anything. He was a great coach. I miss Herm. But I'm really excited about what's going on around here, too."

E-mail: lange@northjersey.com

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Now he's at 280 again, having lost 10 pounds this off-season "to create more stamina," and he's two-gapping again.

I find it strange everybody is losing weight to "create more stamina." Doesn't Mangini rotate like crazy? I'd rather see strength and speed than stamina. Run 'em until they're tired then rotate. Also for a 2 gap 3-4 end you'd think he'd want more weight. Maybe everybody was right and they just were all fat under Edwards.

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