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 17. I will post a full season recap BMR in the next few weeks.
First off, I wanted to thank everyone who read this column this year. I know offensive line play isn’t the most exciting thing in football, but I think its important to shed some light on what guys are doing at the overlooked positions on the field. I enjoyed doing this this season and enjoyed interacting with a lot of you guys on twitter (@CoachNolan64). Happy New Year and here’s hoping that 2014 will be the year of the Big Man.
Even though we didn’t have the Jets game on in Philly this past weekend, I followed some of the story lines on Twitter. One theme that was prevalent was the improved play of Brian Winters in week 17. After watching the tape, the story wasn’t necessarily the improved play of Winters, but the improved play of this group as a unit. Winters still had his struggles, but it was the help that was given to him and the unity this squad played with against the Dolphins that led the Jets offense to have a solid performance. It’s not like the Jets lit up the scoreboard or anything, but this offensive line helped the Jets stay on schedule with more manageable down and distances and win the time of possession battle. They also gave up zero sacks and were a major factor into why there were no turnovers.
Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Brian Winters and Nick Mangold
Brian Winters had the lowest grade and he was named lineman of the week?!?! Let me explain before you click away from this article. I’m giving this to Winters, because of his improvement and because of his positive impacts. An 80% for Winters is excellent and is nearly 10 points higher than his highest grade of the year. He also had only 1 major mistake and it only lead to a hit on Geno Smith instead of a sack. In addition he played very physically. He led the line with 7 positive impact blocks including several knockdowns and a few really nice looking pulls. When he did struggle, Nick Mangold was there to help him out. I’m also naming Mangold here, because he was the highest graded starting lineman and was able to help Brian Winters out all game. Winters seemed to play with a lot more confidence in this game as he knew Mangold would be there to protect him.
Block of the Week – Austin Howard
There were several blocks to choose from here. I thought Brian Winters had a few pulls where he had some really nice blocks and also crunched a linebacker on Sheldon Richardson’s touchdown run. Willie Colon had a few knockdowns and clotheslined a defensive back on the play where he tore his bicep. I decided to go with Austin Howard on a Draw play to Tommy Bohanon.
The Jets will run a draw to Tommy Bohanon here, but the blocking scheme is similar to their Power scheme. Here Austin Howard and Willie Colon will combo block the down lineman to the linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
I picked this play because it is a text book combo block. First Howard and Colon get great movement on Jared Odrick and nearly push him right into Ellerbe’s lap.
As Ellerbe works over top, Howard comes off the combo block to take the linebacker.
As Ellerbe tries to get off the block, Howard plants him into the ground. Unfortunately Tommy Bohanon had to run into the path of the block because of the unblocked safety. I thought this play exemplified improvement though. All year the Jets OLine has struggled with combo blocks, especially getting off on linebackers. This play was an example of what they were able to do all day against the Dolphins.
Week 17 Recap
Nick Mangold (91% grade; -5 plus/minus)
It’s easier for a center to play against a 4-3 defense where they are uncovered for the majority of the game, but nonetheless Nick Mangold was his usual solid self. He didn’t have any major mistakes and only had a few blown assignments. He did a great job helping Brian Winters all day and helped keep the offensive line’s mistakes to a minimum. He had one blown protection call which led to a quick pressure of Geno Smith, but there wasn’t much harm done.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (88% grade; -7 plus/minus)
Brick had a pretty solid week. He had no major mistakes and didn’t have any mental errors whatsoever. The Jets didn’t run the ball his way too often, so his impact was a little limited. In pass protection he was solid and didn’t allow any pressures. He did, however, get pushed back almost into the lap of Geno Smith on a few occasions.
Willie Colon (82% grade; -7 plus/minus)
Willie Colon had a solid game. He played one of his most physical games in several weeks and tied for 2nd on the team in positive impact blocks. He and Austin Howard had there best game of the season combo blocking as evidenced by the Block of the Week. He also was incredibly gutsy. Early in the 4th quarter he tore his bicep while putting a big hit on a blitzing defensive back and continued to play several plays through the next series. He did however have another penalty although it was a questionable holding call.
Austin Howard (81% grade; -9 plus/minus)
Howard had a really strong game in the run game. Playing very physically, especially when combo blocking with Colon. In the pass game, he had one of his weaker performances. Howard struggled at times getting out to Cameron Wake. Luckily it had minimal impact as Geno Smith did a good job of scrambling and getting rid of the ball quickly in this game, At times it seems like, Howard’s kickslide is too flat as he doesn’t get enough depth to cut off the rusher’s line to the Quarterback.
Brian Winters (80% grade; -8.5 plus/minus)
By no means was this a Pro-Bowl caliber performance or anything, but Brian Winters did play better than he has all season. Part of it was because of the improvement he has shown run blocking, especially when pulling. He has become a very adequate pulling guard. It seems like the Jets will usually run their Power Scheme to the right so Winters is pulling instead of Colon. The other part, was that the Jets were able to give him help all day especially in the pass game. They were able to do this because the Dolphins really didn’t bring much pressure. With rookies in three positions, I don’t know why they wouldn’t blitz. With the Dolphins only rushing four the majority of the time, Nick Mangold was able to help Brian Winters all day and gave Geno Smith plenty of time to throw the ball.
Vlad Ducasse (100% grade; 1 plus/minus)
Vlad came into the game once Colon had to come out with the bicep injury. I would assume the Jets were nervous having two pass protection liabilities at the guard spots so they didn’t run a drop back pass while Vlad was in the game. They ran sprint outs and naked bootlegs to make it easy on the offensive line with misdirection. Vlad did a solid job run blocking and even got up to linebackers pretty easily.
Next Up – The Offseason
This offseason is going to be important for this offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked 27th in the leagues halfway through the season. There are several questions that will need to be answered in order to improve this unit for the 2014 season:
- Is Brian Winters the guy at Left Guard?
- Should they resign Willie Colon?
- Should they resign Austin Howard to long term deal?
- Is it time to part ways with Vlad Ducasse?
- What are the plans for Oday Aboushi, Will Campbell, Ben Ijalana, and Dalton Freeman?
These questions and more will be debated all offseason and eventually there will be answers. For now, there’s one thing that is clear: The Jets need to get better on the offensive line. Their performance in Week 17, should give Jets fans some hope that they will.