I decided to borrow an article format that I saw Terry Blount use about the Seahawks on ESPN.com. Since the Jets were consistently ranked in the bottom 10 of 2013 NFL Offensive Lines, I thought it would be a good format to see if we should expect them to improve at each position in 2014.
Left Tackle – Slightly Better
D’Brickashaw Ferguson probably had his worst season as a Jet in 2013. Although he is an average run blocker, he was able to make multiple Pro Bowls because of his pass protection. He even struggled there in 2013 giving up eight sacks and 31 hurries. Although the recent trends show Ferguson should get worse, 2013 was his floor. While I’m not expecting him to return to the Pro Bowl, I do expect him to stop his downward trend.
Ferguson will also stand to benefit from having a more stable situation at Left Guard. A huge component of offensive line play is how well you gel with the guy next to you. Brick didn’t seem to have much chemistry with either Vlad Ducasse or Brian Winters. This should make life a little easier on Ferguson as Brian Winters continues to progress.
Left Guard – Better
The Left Guard spot was a disaster in 2013. Vlad Ducasse was horrible in all but one game (Patriots, Week 2) and Brian Winters wasn’t much better. This year should at least add some more stability as Winters will be the presumed starter with his first offseason under his belt. Don’t forget that Brian Winters played a little better down the stretch in the last 3 games, having his best game of the year in Week 17 against the Dolphins. Winters has gotten all the work with the first team in mini-camp and will stand to gain a lot if he can stay healthy through this training camp.
If Winters is beaten out for the Left Guard spot by Oday Aboushi – who has been praised all offseason – then I would still expect this spot to be better. If the coaching staff feels that another player is an upgrade to Brian Winters at this position, then despite some growing pains, it will still ultimately be an upgrade from 2013.
Center – Same
Nick Mangold may not be the top center in the NFL anymore, but he hasn’t had quite the downfall that D’Brickashaw Ferguson has had. Mangold is still the Jets best lineman and is the leader of this group. Mangold was consistently the highest graded lineman in my Big Man Reports and seemed to get more comfortable as the season went along. He did a great job towards the end of the season giving help to Brian Winters and allowing the line to have a few good performances to end the year. I expect pretty much the same performance from Mangold in 2014.
Right Guard – Not As Good
Willie Colon was solid in his first year with the Jets. He is a physical player who brings a great attitude to the offensive line. Despite this, he definitely has his weaknesses that are not going to be corrected at this point in his career. He struggled in run blocking more than I expected and still has his injury and penalty issues. The former tackle was really good pass blocking though.
Going in to camp, there are big question marks about this position. Colon is supposed to be ready for the regular season, but will he be the same player coming off more injuries? If he is not ready, Oday Aboushi would presumably step into that spot. As he has yet to even dress for an NFL game, this would be a step down from the solid veteran.
Right Tackle – Same
This may seem like a little bit of a cop out, but I really don’t think there will be much difference at right tackle in 2014. While it is tough to lose an ascending talent like Austin Howard, Breno Giacomini should bring some more consistency to the position.
Howard was up and down at times last year, but generally graded out very positively. While not great athletically, Howard seemed to figure out how to become a savvy pass protector only yielding 2 sacks last year.
Giacomini has a similar background as he went from practice squad player into full time starter with the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. Giacomini missed some time due to injury last year, but when he got healthy he played some of the best football of his career. I watched Giacomini’s film from the end of 2013 and he reminded me a lot of Howard. He’s not flashy, but is a solid lineman who gets the job done and rarely gives up big plays. To sum it up, the Jets are replacing an average right tackle who won’t make big mistakes with another average right tackle who won’t make big mistakes.
Depth – Better
The Jets haven’t had to worry about depth very often as the offensive line has been pretty healthy over the past several years. Ferguson and Mangold have missed a combined total of 2 games in their careers.
Even so, anything can happen and there is no where to go but up when it comes to the Jets depth along the offensive line. They severely lacked depth along the line in 2013 and were very lucky that they didn’t sustain any major injuries until Week 17 when Willie Colon tore his biceps. The Jets’ depth on Sundays consisted of Caleb Schlauderaff and Vlad Ducasse or Brian Winters, whichever wasn’t starting. Ben Ijalana, Oday Aboushi, and William Campbell were on the 53 man roster, but were inactive for all 16 games.
The depth has to be better this year. Ducasse is gone. But Ijalana, Aboushi, and Campbell should all be active if they make the final roster. All three should be improved after essentially redshirting last year and Aboushi has worked with the first team all offseason. Schlauderaff is still around, but there is a good chance he is replaced by Dalton Freeman on the final roster, which would be an improvement. Finally, they drafted Dakota Dozier in the fourth round. Dozier is an intriguing prospect and has the potential to be very good. They also have Patrick Ford and Jacolby Ashworth who are long shots to make the roster.
There is a recent trend when it comes to what the Jets are looking for in young linemen. They want physical, versatile guys who can play multiple positions and they have them in Winters, Aboushi, Ijalana, and Dozier. While the bench isn’t very experienced, you would have to assume it would be better than in 2013. However, they are still only one injury away from having some serious issues up front.