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 Linemen. 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 7 and take a look at whats waiting for them in week 8. Next week I will have my midseason grades posted.
The game against the New England Patriots was a throwback to the old Ground and Pound style. Or as I call it now, Three Yards and a cloud of Rubber Pellets. While the Jets made some big plays on defense, on offense they were able to grind away in the run game and convert a lot of 3rd downs. They had long drives that reminded me of the way the Jets played offense in the early Rex Ryan days. This shows the adaptability of Marty Mornhinweg.For the Jets offensive line, it was more a story of Chris Ivory being able to grind away at a depleted defensive front than it was about the offensive line having a great game. The fact of the matter is that the Jets line had one of their weaker performances and didn’t run block all that well. There were way too many instances of guys not staying on blocks and missing blocks at the second level. There were a lot of plays where one block was the difference between Ivory running the ball for 4 yards and 20 yards. In my opinion, there were alot of missed opportunities left on the field by the Jets offensive line. If you want to be a playoff contender and beat teams like New England on a regular basis, these opportunities can’t be missed.
The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Nick MangoldFor the second week in a row, Nick Mangold gets the award. In a week where the offensive line didn’t have a great game, Mangold was the most solid of the bunch. He once again had the highest grade (84%) and the highest plus/minus (-10). Mangold is no longer the killer he once was in the run game, but he very rarely allows pressure in pass protection. In addition to his own protection, he does an excellent job of setting the protection for the rest of the line. There wasn’t one blown protection this game, only guys getting beat one-on-one. Austin Howard was also solid.
Block of the Week – None
There really wasn’t any killer hits in this game and there really weren’t any key blocks that opened up some big plays. The closest thing was a solid pull by Brian Winters that opened up a nice Chris Ivory run. Guys were being physical, but not quite as physical as we’ve come to expect from this group. There were a few knockdowns, but in a game where the offense had 91 snaps, the knockdown ratio was a little lower. This was a little disappointing especially since the Patriots did not have either of their starting defensive tackles in the game.
Week 7 RecapD’Brickashaw Ferguson (80% grade; -15 plus/minus)
D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a better game as far as the grades go than a week ago against Pittsburgh, but he still doesn’t look like his old self. Brick gave up two sacks in this game. On both sacks, he got beat around the edge which is something that, with his athleticism, rarely happened. Now it seems to happen a few times a game. The sacks weren’t the only times that Chandler Jones beat him around the edge. He added a few pressures as well. This season, Ferguson has not been the pro bowl player that he once was, but its the downward turn he has taken the last few weeks that has me really concerned. I would like to blame his struggles on a new rookie starter next to him, but he has simply been getting beat in one-on-one matchups. If Brick is struggling with Winters next to him, it is a mental issue and not a physical one.
Although he wasn’t lined up over Brick for the whole game, Chandler Jones absolutely killed the Jets line. He led the team in tackles with 11 and added 2 sacks and 2 QB hits. He was a monster. D’Brickashaw Ferguson is the guy you look to to shut down an opponent’s top defensive end and right now he is not getting it done.
Brian Winters (79% grade; -13 plus/minus)
Lets start off by putting this 79% grade in perspective. While it is not a great grade, it is the second week in a row where Winters improved. He is getting better, but there are still some lingering issues that need to be worked on. In the run game, Winters is still on the ground way too much. Even after he gets movement on down linemen, he eventually falls flat on his face. His weight distribution is way too far forward in run blocks and both linemen and linebackers use this against him. In the pass game he was solid for the majority of the game but gave up two sacks and a bad pressure. He looks decent for majority of the game and makes common mistakes, but then for 2 or 3 plays a game he looks completely over matched.
Willie Colon (75% grade, -16 plus/minus)
As a big WIllie Colon fan it pains me to say that he had his worst game of the year. While he was solid in pass protection, Colon was flat out awful in every aspect of the run game. No matter the scheme, it seemed like Willie could not block anyone. He was not getting any movement at all and was seemingly in a stalemate on every running play. Every time Marty Mornhinweg called an Iso or Dive play where he the line were in man blocking schemes, Big Willie struggled big time. There are a few clips of him giving up TFLs after getting tossed to the ground. I love Colon’s physical style of play, but in this game, it just wasn’t there. He looked like a different player. Hopefully he isn’t injured.
Austin Howard (83% grade, -12 plus/minus)
While he didn’t play as well as he has in previous week, he was once again solid in week 7. He started off a little slow, but settled down with a long stretch of about 25 plays where he only had one blown assignment. His two major mistakes were an offsides penalty and a TFL where he just fell down out of his stance. Besides that, he was pretty good. He had some nice pickups in pass protection and did an excellent job against Rob Ninkovich all day. I think Austin Howard has done a great job this year and has solidified himself at right tackle. Might be a guy the Jets want to think about locking up long term.
An Injury the Jets Can’t Afford
Nick Mangold was listed as questionable on the injury report this weekend with a rib injury. Although he is expected to play, I wanted to take a minute to mention how important Mangold is to the Jets offense. The former All-Pro center not only provides stability in the middle of the offensive line from a physical standpoint, he makes every line call in the pass game and sets combos for the guards on zone running plays. This is extremely important especially this season with a starting rookie quarterback and a rookie left guard. In 7 games this season, I can count on one hand the number of times Mangold put the Jets in a bad protection. Nearly all QB pressures have resulted from lineman getting beat one-on-one or on blitzers that aren’t accounted for in the protection as Jon Gruden proudly showed Jets nation two weeks ago. On film, you can see that Mangold is often pointing out who Brian Winters is supposed to block in the zone game.
If Mangold were to miss a game, the Jets would have to rely on Caleb Schlauderaff to fill in with a rookie QB and rookie guard. To me, this would be disaster waiting to happen. While there would be a drop off in the physical aspect of the game, the bigger issue would be in the mental part of it. Mangold is the leader of the Jets offensive line and one of the leaders of the offense. If he were to miss a game, the Jets offense would probably flounder. Having a center with Mangold’s football acumen is vitally important and the Jets know it. The Jets used Nick as part of the interview process to hire an offensive coordinator this offseason. Nick has obviously earned a great deal of respect from the organization and for good reason, that is why the Jets can’t afford to have him miss a game.
Looking Ahead – The Bengals
The Bengals defense under Mike Zimmer has been an underrated group for a few years now, but thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks they aren’t sneaking up on anybody. Up front they are led by arguably the best defensive tackle combination in the NFL with All-Pro Geno Atkins and Domata Peko. Atkins is widely considered to be the best 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL. These two guys are extremely physical. They aren’t just run stuffers either, Atkins has 4 sacks on the season and Peko has 2.5.
Atkins will most likely be lined up against Rookie left guard Brian Winters for most of the game. This prospect has me scared to death. The most dominant Defensive Tackle in the league against a work in progress rookie who can’t seem to stay on his feet. The Jets will need to give Winters as much help as possible by having Mangold work with Winters a lot more than usual. This means that Colon will have to handle Peko on his own.
The rest of the front seven, one of the best in the NFL, is rounded out by DEs Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson and LBs Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, and James Harrison. They also have some depth with guys like Devon Still and Margus Hunt coming off the bench. This is a physical, well coached front that will look to impose their will on the Jets line. They will, without a doubt, make some plays. The key is to limit these plays and have a short memory up front, like their Rookie QB seems to have. If the Jets line keeps working hard and grinding they could put themselves in a position to pull out a close, low scoring affair.