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 Line. 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 14 and take a look at what is waiting for them in week 15.
Now that’s a lot better! Granted, the Oakland Raiders have one of the weakest defensive lines the Jets will face all year, but it still feels good to see a positive performance from the offensive line after several bad weeks. This week’s performance was in line with what we expected to see coming into the season: Some struggles at left guard, high level performances from Brick and Mangold, and solid physical play from Colon and Howard. Four of the five linemen had no penalties or major mistakes. Limiting these momentum shifting mistakes is what will allow this group to be successful.
This was the type of performance these guys needed to have to allow Marty Mornhinweg to open up the playbook a little more and to give skilled guys enough time to make plays. This Raiders game couldn’t have been more well-timed either. Hopefully this game allowed them to build some confidence as a unit heading into arguably their toughest matchup of the season.
Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Nick Mangold
Again Nick Mangold wins this award. Last week, I was clamoring for someone to grade out in the 90s and Big Nick answered the call. This was Mangold’s best game to date. He was rock solid in every aspect of the game. He really only had two physical mistakes as one of his blown assignments was a bad protection call. Its apparent that Nick is at his best when he is able to work alone. Because Oakland utilized a lot of 46 defense concepts, Nick didn’t have to combo block with the likes of Brian Winters as he, too, was covered. Instead Mangold was one-on-one with the Nose Guard all day and completed dominated in both run and pass game. When Oakland bumped into a four man front on passing downs, Nick did a great job of helping Brian Winters. He was able to cover up a lot of mistakes from the rookie left guard and the Jets will probably have to maximize this going forward.
Block of the Week – D’Brickashaw Ferguson
If Brick didn’t have two nice blocks in this game, I would have given this award to honorary Big Man Chris Ivory for his crushing block on a blitz pick up of the Raiders Sio (Snorsio) Moore. I have to keep the love in the inner circle though and Ferguson had two really nice blocks: one that sprung a big play and one that left Charles Woodson flattened.
Here the Jets are in a single back set and will be running an inside zone play to the right. Ferguson is lined up at left tackle.
Everyone takes their zone steps right here and it looks like Brick is beaten across his face, but this is paused on his first step. His second step actually comes down quickly enough that he is able to stop penetration and wash DT Vance Walker down the line.
Brick absolutely crushes Walker and puts him on the ground allowing Chris Ivory to make a great cut back. Ivory’s cut led to a ridiculous touchdown where he broke about 15 tackles. It all started with a smart, physical block from Ferguson.
Earlier in the game, the Jets ran a quick screen to Jeremy Kerley to the left side. On this screen Ferguson and Brian Winters pass block for a second and then sprint out to lead the screen. Ferguson looks to kick out former Heisman winner Charles Woodson.
Ferguson literally pick Woodson up and tosses him through the air. Unfortunately Kerley tries to get outside as there is another defender inside and trips over the flailing Woodson. If Brian Winters doesn’t mis the cut block inside, the Jets could have a huge play here.
Week 14 Recap
Here’s how the other four linemen performed:
Willie Colon (83% grade; -8 plus/minus)
Willie Colon had arguably his best game of the year. He didn’t do anything really special, but he played physically and make no major mistakes. A game with no penalties for Colon is like seeing a Haley’s Comet. Revel in the fact that you witnessed it, but know it probably won’t happen again for quite some time. Besides not having any penalties, he didn’t make any mistakes glaring mistakes either. Most of his blown assignments were falling off blocks late in the run game. He was excellent once again in pass protection with only one pressure coming on a pass twist where he attempted to block two guys. I would be interested in seeing some NFL rankings on pass protection, because I would have to imagine that Willie is near the top for guards.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (81% grade; -7 plus/minus)
Brick’s 81% grade doesn’t really capture the story of how well he played in this game. He easily had one of his best games of the year. In fact, I really considered him for lineman of the week. He was fantastic in pass protection. This is an area where he has struggled as of late and it was good to see him have a bounce back game. He is going to have to carry that momentum to next week, because he will be facing elite pass rushers again. He also made some key blocks in the run game as he scored only the second “2” of the season on his block on Ivory’s touchdown run.
Austin Howard (80% grade; -9.5 plus/minus)
Howard was the fourth starting lineman to have no penalties or major mistakes. It wasn’t his best performance, but he was solid. He was OK in pass protection. He did get beat around the edge a couple times and let up some hits on Geno Smith. On the other hand, he was physical and had a few knockdowns in the run game. Also have to give him credit for hustling in this game. Although he didn’t block anybody, he sprinted down the field on Santonio Holmes big catch and run and nearly beat him down the field. He also hustled to help push Chris Ivory into the endzone on his unbelievable run in the fourth quarter. This hustle is worth noting as I called Howard out for what I thought was lazy play a few weeks ago. He laid that to rest this week.
Brian Winters (69% grade; -17 plus/minus)
Here is another installment of Winters Watch 2013. As noted earlier, four of five linemen made no major mistakes. The fifth lineman in that sentence is Brian Winters. Winters put up another disappointing grade at 69%, which is actually down from last week. His major mistakes were a false start penalty, a play where he was pushed 3 yards in backfield for a TFL, and an inexcusable overset where he allowed Geno Smith to get hit on a 3-Step protection. He let up two more pressures that could have been considered major mistakes. One pressure led to a Geno Smith overthrow of a wide open Kellen Winslow in the endzone.
Here’s the good news, there were some positives to take away. Winters may have been the most physical guy on the line. He led the team in knockdowns and positive impact plays. This game also showed how life can be made easier on Winters. I don’t know if it was addressed in any way, but it looks like Nick Mangold focused on helping Winters a lot in this game. You could see the two of them constantly talking to each other before the snap. After the snap, Nick was sliding to help the struggling guard. The other thing we saw is schemes where Winters is more effective. He struggles when he is just in a man protection scheme where he is on an island against a defensive lineman. He is very successful when facing defensive lines that slant and angle. He struggled blocking Pat Sims when they were one-on-one, but when the defense stunted he did a great job. All in all, another bad game for Winters, but this is the first time in a few weeks where there was something positive to take away from both a technique and scheme perspective.
Next Up – Carolina Panthers
The Jets offense will be facing their toughest task of the season this week when they face an excellent Panthers defense in Carolina. The Panthers are ranked at or near the top of the NFL in almost every defensive statistic. They are the number one ranked scoring defense in the NFL and also have the edge on the Jets as the leagues top rushing defense (although the Jets are giving up fewer yards per carry). They are also near the top in passing defense and rank behind only Seattle in total defense. With 41 sacks and 26 takeaways, they rank near the top in those two categories as well.
Many say this Panthers defense reminds them of the 2003 Panthers group that led them to the Super Bowl. They have one of the best pass rush combinations in the NFL in Greg Hardy (From Hogwarts) and Charles Johnson. They also have one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL. Luke Kuechly gets most of the attention as he seems to make almost every tackle and is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, inside linebacker in the NFL. The guy who gets overlooked is Thomas Davis who has looked great at the Sam Linebacker spot since coming back from yet another knee surgery. Ex-Giant Chase Blackburn has added some stability at the Will Linebacker.
The big reason they have been so good this year, and my biggest concern for the Jets offensive line, is their improvement on the interior defensive line. They go 4 deep at defensive tackle and rotate often. They have a nice mix of veterans and rookies. The veterans are Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards. Cole is the starter and is better against the run and Edwards is the guy who comes in on passing situations and is a better pass rusher. The big difference makers have been the rookies, Star Lotulelei (My top DL entering 2013 draft) and Kawann Short. As two of the toughest run stuffers in the league, these two have been awesome with nearly 60 tackles between them. With this rotation inside and the tough pass rushers outside, the Jets offensive line has its work cut out for it.
An interesting storyline in this game is that Marty Mornhinweg and Panthers DC Sean McDermott were counterparts in Philadelphia from 2009 to 2011. You better believe that these two will be very familiar with each other. I really like the way McDermott has been calling the defense this year. He realizes how good the Panthers are up front and has been a conservative playcaller, letting his guys make plays. When it is an obvious passing down, he then busts out some of the exotic blitz schemes that he learned under legendary Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. These obvious passing situations are where the Jets offensive line has struggled most this season. Mornhinweg will need to do his best to keep the Jets offense on schedule against his former Eagles counterpart so that they don’t become predictable.
This Panthers defense has me scared to death and the fact that they just got blown out by New Orleans on national TV won’t be good for the Jets. The Jets defense is going to have to keep this game close and hope the offense can protect the ball and make a couple big plays to come out on top. The offensive line will need to have another performance like they did in week 14 where they keep the big mistakes to a minimum.