Ellis and Abraham hold down the fort

This competition is more than just about numbers, its about helping a team stay competitive while their offense finds its identity. <p>

Shaun Ellis (6-5, 294) and John Abraham (6-4, 256) are the starting defensive ends for the New York Jets, and this season their expectations, are sky high.

Ever since they came into the NFL drafted with the 12th and 13th overall selections in the 2000 NFL draft, they have been compared to each other with particular attention being paid to the amount of sacks each player has.

So far Abraham is winning the battle, compiling career totals of 27.5 sacks to Ellis's 17.5.

This year they are in a competition with each other to see who can get to the quarterback on a more consistent basis.

"Both John and Shaun are close friends," said Ted Cotrell, the Jets defensive coordinator. "They talk about how many sacks they get, and hopefully this year Shaun can keep up with John."

Ellis believes this can be his breakout year.

"This is the best I have ever felt," said Ellis during training camp. "Last year, I was consistent, but I didn't have many sacks, so I guess a lot of people look down on that. I want to have sacks for myself. As a defensive lineman you want sacks.

"This year I want at least double digits. Get those double digits; you are doing good in this league. It's always been a realistic goal when you are playing defensive line, you just have to get there."

Although Ellis did not register as many sacks as Abraham last season, (10.0 to 4.0) the coaching staff feels that he was just as effective of a player.

"He (Ellis) has paid his dues," said Herman Edwards. "He is probably the most consistent player on defense now. He has a lot of ability. The more he plays that way, the more confident he becomes."

Ellis is not the same player this season. This year he is in better shape, and understands his role in New York's defense.

"Obviously his (Ellis) weight is down," said Edwards. "He has more confidence in what we are asking him to do, and he understands his role. He understands what type of player he is. Shaun is not like John. Shaun is a more physical, dominant guy and he is starting to use that in his rushing.

"I am not saying Ellis is not fast, but he has the ability to be a powerful rush guy. Ellis has the ability to push them back, where John is not trying to do that. John is trying to speed them off the end."

The defensive coaches see that Ellis, and Abraham have different skills rushing the signal-caller, so they define their roles accordingly.

"Shaun is a tremendous player," said Cottrell. "Shaun had a lot of pressure ( on opposing quarterbacks last season) and played well. But the only time you get noticed is when you get a sack. Shaun has developed into one of the better defensive end's in the league.

"During games, Shaun is lining up against the tight end. We ask Shaun to come off the tight end on first and second downs. John is closer (to the QB) on first and second downs, because he is playing against a tackle."

Both players are being counted on this year, while their offense makes the transition to Vinny Testaverde, a task Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett feels can take up to five weeks.

Working against a tough tackle tandem in Washington (Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen) Ellis and Abraham each had two sacks.

This week's tandem of Wade Smith and Todd Wade, aren't considered as good as Samuels and Jansen, so Ellis and Abraham could have their second big game in a row.

You can reach Dan Feit @ Dfeit09@hotmail.com

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