Each week I will be reviewing the coaches’ tape from the previous week’s game and grading out the performance of the New York Jets Offensive Linemen. This grading process is the same one I use to grade the offensive linemen I have coached at the college and high school levels. To see how I grade click here. To see previous Big Man Reports, click here. Let’s see how the big guys performed in week 6.
“It was the Best of Lines, it was the Worst of Lines.” Charles Dickens would have said something like that if he had been alive to watch the Jets-Steelers game from Week 6. Then again he probably would have been freaked out by the Jumbotron, so what does he know. Anyway, it was the tale of two offensive lines in this game. While the right side of the line (including the center) had really solid performances, the left side of the line left alot to be desired.
The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Nick Mangold
After saying “I could have chosen Nick Mangold” for this award almost every week, I finally picked him. Mangold was the usual rock in the middle of the offensive line, but played even beyond himself this week. Although I don’t think the Steelers are as good as they have been at the Nose Guard position, Mangold had the additional tough task of setting the protections all day against Dick LeBeau’s extremely difficult and confusing blitz packages. Nick had to set protections nearly 30 times in this game and I only saw one play where he got caught sliding the line the wrong way. That is pretty darn good against an arsenal that included both Man and Zone Blitzes. In addition to that, Mangold had the highest grade on the day for starters at 90% and had 3 positive impacts that included a couple knockdowns.
Block of the Week – Willie Colon
Once again, Willie Colon led the Jets in knockdowns. Although they didn’t get the win, it had to feel good to play such a physical brand of football against the team that let him go. Here is an example of a crushing block Colon had on a pull:
Here the Steelers were in their base 3-4 defense. They bring #99 Brett Keisel into the B Gap and #95 Jarvis Jones into the C Gap. Willie Colon is pulling left on this Power Run Play.
Taking a closer look, Colon is looking to block #98 rookie LB Vince Williams. Tommy Bohanon should be kicking out the end man on the line of scrimmage but Jarvis Jones took himself out of the play, so he kicks Williams.
Williams slips off of Bohanon as the RB presses the edge. Colon then runs right into him and without hesitation body slams him into the turf. Pay no attention to Bohanon trying to tackle Polamalu.
After the body slam, Willie Colon goes for the cover and gets the three count. We have a new Block of the Week Champion.
Week 6 Recap
In Week 6, the trio of Mangold, Colon, and Howard had really solid games. Mangold had the highest grade at 90% and Colon and Howard tied for 2nd with a grade of 88%. All three of them played very physically and were consistently solid. The left side of the line was a different story. D’Brickashaw Ferguson finished the game with a 74% grade and Brian Winters had a 76%. Not terrible, but not great. We already talked about Mangold’s performance, but here is a breakdown of the other four from left to right.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (74% grade; -12 plus/minus)
Brick had his worst game of the season in week 6 against the Steelers. His weak anchor really came back to haunt him in this game, as he struggled to stop penetration in pass protection. He was pushed back into Geno Smith several times. He gave up another sack in this game as he got beat really badly by Jason Worilds on a boot play. In the run game he was OK, but struggled mightily when blocking Brett Keisel. Brick’s grade would have been a lot worse had Keisel not left the game in the 1st half after a rib injury. If Brick wants to get back to the Pro Bowl, he needs to show he can be the dominant left tackle every week. Right now he isn’t showing that level of consistency.
Brian Winters (76% grade; -9 plus/minus)
Winters was decent during this game. While we can take some positives from Winters’ performance, he still had a below average outing for a starting NFL guard. Surprisingly, he was alot better in the pass game than he was in the run game. I’m not sure Winters has adjusted to the speed and power of NFL defensive linemen yet. He gets himself into trouble because of his huge forward lean. I counted 8 plays where Winters loses his feet and his man in run blocking. This is unacceptable and I will get into some of the repercussions later. Despite his leaning, he was 3rd on the Jets line with 3 knockdowns. In the pass game, Winters usually gets some help from Mangold, but in a game where 5 or 6 rushers were coming on every play, he was on an island for most of the game and did a solid job, only giving up one pressure.
Although he still isn’t where he needs to be, a 6 percent increase from last week is a solid improvement. Although he is currently the weakest link on a solid offensive line, improvement is what you want to see out of the rookie. The big thing for me is that he had 0 penalties/major mistakes. While he may not be as steady as Vlad was in the run game, he is not making the huge errors that have led to sacks and turnovers that Vlad had. I got some negative feedback last week after taking some positives away from Winters despite a 70% effort against the Falcons, because the Falcons had such a bad defensive front. To improve by 6% against the Steelers is a positive. He just needs to continue to build and not take a step back next week.
Willie Colon (88% grade; -3 plus/minus)
I imagine this game had to be a little emotional for the Jets most swagalicious offensive lineman. Again, he played a very physical game as he led the team in knockdowns. He was good in both the run game and the pass game. Most of his mistakes were minor and had minimal impact. He did have a holding penalty though and got beat really bad on a pass rush move that led to a hit on Geno Smith. Besides these two mistakes, he was excellent. That’s what we’ve come to expect out of Colon.
Austin Howard (88%, -6 plus/minus)
Throughout the season, Howard has been right there with Willie Colon in knockdowns and positive impacts, but this week he was last. That’s not a horrible thing in this case though, because he just played really solid football and did his job. He was nearly flawless in the run game with the exception of one play where he gave up his inside on a goal line play that got stuffed. In the pass game, he played well but had a few blown assignments. He allowed one pressure on an inside move where Geno Smith scrambled directly into a blocked lineman for a sack. One thing I noticed is that Howard has become a really crafty lineman. He knows he’s not great in pass protection so he has become really good at using pass rushers weight distribution against them. He did it all game against the Steelers. Howard would dump Lamar Woodley on his face whenever he felt Woodley was overextended or going to bull rush. his really slowed up Woodley’s pass rush as the game went on. It is a smart play by Howard and has shown why he is so greatly improved. He knows his limitations and figures out other ways to beat guys.
Vlad Ducasse (100%, +1 plus/minus)
Just like last week, Vlad got in for one play at tight end. The Jets ran a power play to his side and Vlad had a nice knockdown. I would possibly look for Mornhinweg to use Vlad in this role a little bit more.
Out of Control
As mentioned above, Brian Winters needs to be more under control. I don’t know if it is rookie jitters or over excitement, but he is in a period right now where he has not adjusted to the athleticism and strength of NFL defensive linemen. Because of this, he is trying to put everything he has into each block which has led to him falling forward. Right now, he is playing out of control and others can suffer from this type of play. Here is an example of what can happen when guys play out of control:
Geno Smith drops back to pass in the 4th quarter as the Jets go for a last minute comeback. Mike Goodson is in at RB and blocks the edge in this full line slide protection.
As we’ve already established at TOJ, this is Goodson’s biggest weakness and he gets beat by a much bigger Jarvis Jones who gets a hit on Geno Smith as he releases the ball.
The ball is intercepted by Lawrence Timmons who starts to run the ball back the other way. Goodson hustles out to make up for his mistake and make the tackle. Brian Winters is the other Jet at the top left of the frame.
Goodson has Timmons wrapped up. Instead of keeping his feet and finishing the tackle on a stood up ball carrier, Brian Winters blindly dives at Timmons legs. Not only does he dive, he does it very awkwardly.
Winters dives and barely makes contact with Timmons. Instead he dives into the left knee of Goodson who is now out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL. The Jets lost their most explosive offensive player. I understand things like this happen in football, but maybe if Brian Winters is more under control, this doesn’t happen. I also realize that if Mike Goodson could pass protect it wouldn’t have happened either.
Looking Ahead – New England Patriots
In their second matchup of the season, the Jets look to stop a troubling trend against the Patriots. Last time out, Vlad Ducasse had what we thought might be a breakout game. Instead things went downhill and Brian Winters was inserted into the starting lineup. Since then, the Pats have been decimated up front. They lost Immovable Object Vince WIlfork and Leading Tackler Jerod Mayo for the season. They could also be without Tommy Kelly who has played well at defensive tackle.
No matter who plays up front for the Patriots, the Jets offensive line will have to play a lot better as a group than the first time around. They did not get to linebackers all day and Ferguson and Ducasse had a hell of a time with Chandler Jones. They were able to run the ball with success though and I look for them to lean on the running game a little more this week, especially with all the injuries up front. On the offensive side of the ball, this game will be placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. If they can clear some running lanes for Powell and Ivory, they should have some success as the Pats have a pretty underrated pass defense (even without Talib). The keys to watch are for D’Brickashaw Ferguson to have a huge bounce back week against a guy that he has had trouble with at times and for Brian Winters to continue to improve upon his play and be more under control.