New York Jets Countdown to the 2014 Offseason: Guard

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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):

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2014/OG

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

12 thoughts on “New York Jets Countdown to the 2014 Offseason: Guard

  1. Pingback: TOJ- New York Jets Running Back Grade Sheet Week 14 - Turn On The Jets

  2. Wait, WTF? Why are you trying to address a position that does not need to be adressed? You should have looked at a replacement for Ferguson more than a replacement for Winters. You can live with a bad left guard, assuming your QB does simple things like recognizes pressure, sees the blitz, and releases the ball right after he finishes his drop and sets his feet. You cannot survive in this league with your OT giving up multiple sacks and pressures per game from the QB’s blindside. Ferguson’s transgressions are much less forgiveable and hurt much more than Winters’s.

    My guess is that this article was meant to be light-hearted; instead, it was light-minded. (Why is OT not part of the series if you are just imagining fantasy rosters?) A deeper analysis would show that your priorities are wrong.

    Another way of looking at the future salary cap is we only have $51,911,726 to spend. With that money (which we get by dumping our #1 receiver and our #1 corner) we must: extend Wilkerson (~9-10 million dollars), extend Howard (~$3-4 million dollars), and get a replacement #1 receiver (pretty much just earmark all the savings we get from Holmes). These are musts, and they eat up close to half of all potential cap space.After that, we still need to get a replacement for Pace (cannot depend on a rookie to step into all his duties), address the “no starters at safety” situation, again, extend Colon, get a veteran QB to start under center, see if we can get a veteran TE on the cheap or if we have to suffer another year with Cumberland, and set aside enough money to sign 12 rookies. Gee, that cap goes by fast! This looks like another year in which depth players will be a pipe dream.

    The $51 million will not be enough to avoid compromise, so we will likely have the same running backs behind the same offensive line, protecting a second-tier FA QB, throwing to a younger #1 receiver with the same WR corps behind him and a second-tier TE FA. On defense, we will have the same front seven, but hopefully with a younger, faster OLB in Pace’s place, and a secondary that consists of youth and potential with Milliner, Walls, Wilson, and Berry supported by Allen and a new FS. Rookies will, again, need to provide a kick at whatever positions we draft them to make it seem like something changed from this year.

    In the midst of all this, the thing you think is holding the team back is Winters. “There is no patience in the modern NFL” is preached only by the advocates of impatience. There is no money in the salary cap to improve a position at which you have adequate production and long-term potential.

    The two questions that need to be asked about Winters are: 1) Can he be on the field at his present level? 2) What are the roots of his struggles? 2b) To what extent can they be fixed?

    Winters is playing at the level of a below average guard. This is not Lake Wobegone where everyone is above average. He does not fall into the bottom ten percent of your roster, so you can provide him competition, but should not actively seek to replace him.

    More pointedly, the root of his problem is in his adjustment to the pros. Winters was a tackle in a weaker conference.The players he faced were not top-end and they were college edge rushers that weigh between 220 and 280 lbs. He comes to the pros, and he needs to fend off 340 lbs. of elite talent and decades of experience. There is a power gap. There is a technique gap. There is a transition gap. But the most important gap is in conditioning.

    For a lineman, power and technique are directly related to conditioning. Playing with a low pad level and moving your legs requires the endurance to maintain a squat that can continuously transfer power from your legs to your upper body and from your upper body to your legs. Winters does not have the endurance, so he keeps using an awkward posture to compensate for the power-generation, which cuts off any chance for the proper technique. It also disrupts his balance, making it hard to move his feet. Even if he was able to move his feet, he would not be able to transfer any power into his step, which requires the lower squat. But this is nothing that six months of strength training cannot cure.

    Winters is not Ducasse. With Ducasse, we had a guard that could not recognize attacks. He could not adjust to a stunt, which requires defending your gaps without pursuing too far, or late blitzes, which requires disengaging from helping a teammate and going to guard your gap. Plus, Ducasse was skilled at rotating his men around him, which creates holes for a running back, but sacks your QB. Winters reads and reacts and then gets blown back, but at least he usually gets in the guy’s way. With Winters, you see the aggression and the recognition and you will see the power and the technique with an offseason of work.

  3. Also, wasn’t Winters injured in the pre-season and for the first few weeks of the year?

    That would contribute to his struggles adapting to the NFL, as KAsh detailed above.

    It seems depth would be a better idea than a top-tier free agent for this particular position.

  4. Didn’t we draft 3 OL men this year?

    Coming into this year we all worried about Howard’s play – look what he’s done!

  5. Kash,

    ‘Brick is having a bad year. However, what tells you his skills are eroding? I think playing next to 2 guys, who aren’t equipped (albeit for different reasons) to play LG, all season has a lot to do with his own poor play. There is no doubt he’s compensating for the guy next to him.

  6. @Lidman

    It is very hard to judge anyone on the o-line on pass protection because it is not clear how much of what you see is the result of Geno holding the ball. But if Ferguson’s problems were caused just by having to compensate fir the guy on his right, he should not be getting beat to his right so much. If that were the case, he would be stouter against inside moves than he used to be and struggling on the outside. Mike Nolan has watched every snap, so he would be the one to ask, but that does not seem to be the case.

    But, I repeat, I have no idea to what extent the pass blocking issues can be fixed by fixing the QB.

  7. @Kash

    Your math is pretty fuzzy bro.

    Wilkerson will be in his 4th year, and has a 5th year rookie option the Jets will activate, giving him, effectively 2 years left under contract. I do believe he will be extended, but that will cost the team either nothing, or almost nothing in 2014.

    You are right that Howard will be resigned for 3-4 mil, but he makes 2 now, so that will only cost the team 1-2 more a year that he already does.

    Holmes and Cromartie WILL be dropped, as will the Sanchize, but any two or all three could be resigned for next to nothing, as I doubt there is much interest around the league after the seasons they are having.

    Guards are cheap in FA, and the Jets choosing to explore that avenue would give Winters, Aboushi (swing tackle), and Campbell more time to develop and potentially replace Colon in a year.

    We have Antonio Allen as a starting safety, Landry has another year on his deal and Ed Reed could be brought in. We also have Josh Bush, and eventually we may have Rontez Miles.

    As far as the Draft goes, I am all for taking the best player available, offensive or defensive. We do need a TE, some talent at WR and help in the secondary, but 51 mil is a ton if used properly.

  8. @Anthony

    My math is fuzzy only because I am not an expert on salary caps. But logic is logic.

    The Jets will extend Wilkerson, likely for big money and a sizable cap charge. When you have $51 million of cap room, a big cap charge is better for the team because it has money to spend in the short term and the player will cost less to cut in the long term. If you extend Wilkerson with a huge signing bonus and he tears his ACL and never fully recovers, then you saved cap space when you did not need to and will take a huge hit in dead money if you cut him in the future. Players like signing bonuses because it then makes them hard to cut, so Wilkerson should get a sizable signing bonus, but the Jets will try to take as much of the cap hit as they can as soon as possible. Think of TB’s contract with Revis, except we can let Wilkerson have some job security. (As for the rookie option, it has to be exercised in this offseason, and will only happen if the extention talks break down, which they should not since the team has $51 million dollars to spend.)

    Austin Howard is not signed for the 2014 season. He was a RFA last year and got tagged, so the $51 million dollars for 2014 does not include him. You pay him $3-4 million or he walks.

    People are estimating Cromartie to still be worth around $5 million dollars. This is not the Calvin Pace situation, where he comes back for the veteran minimum. Cromartie (same thing for Holmes) is on a down year, but someone will pay him and the Jets will have to match that offer for him to be back. Anyway, Idzik has favored younger players, so do not expect Cromartie or Holmes to return unless every other signing at those positions falls through.

    If most guards are cheap in free agency, it is because most good guards do not hit free agency. You get what you pay for. Anyway, the genius behind drafting an entire o-line together is that the o-line has to work as one cohesive unit. You want as few changes on it as possible, which goes against the Ducasse > Winters > FA guard > Winters at RG > Winters at LG and new RG carousel.

    Finally, good catch on Landry. I thought he was signed for just this year. We are still screwed at FS, but at least we have Landry at FS to fall back on. Anyway, Landry staying is probably the final option, so a new FA FS or a draft pick (Clinton-Dix and Lamarcus Joyner are the only good FS in the draft) is a more likely alternative.

  9. @Kash, I’m not sure if you know how this cap thing works.

    Since you’re not an expert, you should take some time to look at Overthecap.com and read up on some of Jason’s cap information. Its really good stuff.

    The most expensive guard in the league makes 8 mil a year. The average guard price is about 3-4 mil. Currently we spend 1.2 on willie colon, just to give you an idea what they cost.

    The most expensive 3-4 defensive end costs 12 mil a year, that’s the big fella from baltimore.

    The Jets will absolutely invoke the rookie option, regardless of talks breaking down because of one simple reason, its one more year of cheap team control. Will Wilkersons cap charge go up? Maybe a little, if they frontload the deal and give a lump sum bonus to take some off the backend of the deal. But if they upped him from 2 mil to 8, he would still only cost 6 more this year, and not the 9 or 10 you had in mind. Remember, his deal will lock him up for 6 more years (2 team control + 4 extention) which is the max he can be signed for this CBA.

    Idk who these people saying Cro is worth 5 mil are. The max CB contract this past offseason(after revis) was around 5 mil, and cro has been a disaster and will be 30. He will get a 2 mil a year “prove it” contract that might even have a second year team option. He is playing like he’s done and maybe he becomes our FS one day. But right now, he’s not worth anything near that.

  10. Pingback: New York Jets Countdown to the 2014 Offseason: Wide Receiver

  11. After reading some of the nonsense above I wonder if those guys really watched our games, the line play was not very good the left side was TERRIBLE we really need a LT guard one of the FA guys mentioned would probably be a good fit and if it was up to me I would see what it would take to get the LT tackle from Auburn coming out I grew up hearing over and over again from hall of fame coaches that you build from the inside out and that means you start with your O-Line look at the time the good QB’s get to throw with a good line I think Gino would be a good to very good QB and that’s what we need

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