The New York Jets could have as many as twelve draft picks in 2014. As they stand right now, the Jets have $25,861,726 in cap space. With expected cuts of Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez, and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets should have $51,911,726 in cap space. That gives them a lot of room to work with.
This is a four part series. It will cover four offensive positions of need (QB, WR, TE, & G), free agent scouting reports, and draft options. This week, guard.
See Part One on the Quarterback, here.
Many would argue that guard is the least glamorous position in football. They may be right, but that doesn’t justify this classification. The guard plays as integral a role as any other offensive lineman. The guard is responsible for pulling and speed blocking, making their contribution to big plays invaluable.
As a unit, the Jets offensive line started the season strong getting good push off the line and playing Rex Ryan brand physical football. However, over the second half of the season the offensive line play has dropped precipitously. The decline of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson has gotten most of the headlines and rightly so. After four to five years of all-pro level production from this duo, their fall from grace has been disheartening. Both have failed to adapt to their waning athleticism and develop a way to compensate. Mangold has been faring better than Ferguson in general, but neither man’s play has inspired future confidence.
Despite the decline in play at left tackle and center, guard is the most immediate concern. Mangold and Ferguson are serviceable for the time being and they are far from the weakest link. Willie Colon, while not a world beater, has been serviceable. Nolan described him by saying:
If nothing else, Willie Colon is consistent. You know he’s going to have a couple knockdowns and will be pretty good in pass protection for the majority of the game. You also know that he will be good for a penalty or two and a few run plays where he just doesn’t move his feet.
This might not be a ringing endorsement, but consistency is important. Keeping him around might not be the worst idea. The major hole in the line is at left guard. The Jets started the year off with Vlad Ducasse manning the spot but it seems the book on him is written; can get good push in the run game and can handle power lineman (see the Vince Wilfork aberration) but struggles with speed rushers and technique. In short, he is a one trick pony. Not a good quality for an offensive lineman.
After the coaching staff finally pulled the cord on Ducasse, Brian WInters was swapped in. The third round pick couldn’t be worse than Vlad ‘The Turnstile’ Ducasse, right? Wrong. Brian ‘Nothing But Air’ Winters struggles in nearly every aspect of the game. He fails to get his feet set and has a high pad level. Winters does display some of the physical tools and aggression that it takes to play offensive line at the pro level. However, one has to imagine a long development with how behind he is technically. There is no patience in the modern NFL and, with that in mind, lets take a look at the 2014 free agents:
John Greco (CLE): Greco is part of one of the best unit’s in football. Surely, playing next to a talent like Joe Thomas doesn’t hurt but Greco has a resume all his own. He displays elite awareness and hardly ever misses a block. Greco has a good punch that can stun the defender. He is explosive off the ball and gets good push. He is limited athletically but outstanding technique and awareness have made him a top tier guard in the NFL.
Jon Asamoah (KC): Asamoah brings superb athleticism to the guard position. He is quick off the ball and agile, though does not display not elite strength. Like Greco, Asamoah’s awareness is through the roof. He uses good hand placement and has good pad level. What makes Asamoah particularly intriguing is his versatility. He has shown an ability to play just about any spot on the line.
Zane Beadles (DEN): Beadles helps anchor a unit that has given up a league low fifteen sacks on the season (though Manning’s quick release may have something to do with that). He is able to hold ground against power moves in the passing game. Beadles uses his angles well when he knows his assignment but has displayed poor blitz pick up. He shines against interior rushers but struggles when speed rushers stunt inside.
Geoff Schwartz (KC): Another Chief, Schwartz would likely be the cheapest of these options. Schwartz was a sixteen game starter with the Panthers in 2010 but, after a devastating hip injury, he has struggled. He missed the entire 2011 season and lost the Vikings starting job in 2012. Schwartz started at left guard weeks one, four, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen for the injured Chief Jeff Allen and has played admirably.
Top 5 2014 Draft Prospects (CBS Sports):
David Yankey – Stanford, 6’5″, 314
Cyril Richardson – Baylor, 6’5″, 340
Zack Martin – Notre Dame, 6’4″ 308
Xavier Su’a-FIlo – UCLA, 6’3″, 305
Anthony Steen – Alabama, 6’2″, 310