Camp Countdown '10: Offensive Line
The Jets are widely considered to have one of the elite offensive lines in the NFL. They boast the best center in the NFL, a Pro Bowl quality left tackle and two solid veterans on the right side of the line. These four players have been together for two full seasons and have meshed well as a unit. The real strength of the team is their run blocking, where they have paved the way for Thomas Jones to put up back to back 1,000 yard seasons at an age where most backs would have broken down. The players have almost all avoided the injury bug and will be the key to the Jets success in 2010.
C Nick Mangod anchors the line. Mangold is a devastating inside blocker and has opened up the middle for the team in a manner that has been missing from the teams offense for a very long time. RT Damien Woody is a strong run blocker on the right hand side while Brandon Moore has an excellent ability to get into the next level and get his hands on another body. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the better pass blocking tackles in the NFL and has done a very good job against some of the elite players that have lined up against him. If there is a weakness among the group it is the pass blocking skills particularly on the right hand side of the line. Moore can get overpowered at times by large tackles while the older Woody has days where it seems he cant get out of his stance fast enough to catch up with an edge rusher. Ferguson, from time to time, has mental lapses that lead to sacks or holding calls in the pass game and the line seems to have some problems with certain blitz pickups. That said they are still above average in the passing game and did remove the weakest link in the passing game by releasing LG Alan Faneca.
With Faneca removed from the line that has opened up a position that will now be filled by a young unproven talent. Faneca was still a strong run blocker, particularly on plays where he pulled, and a strong presence both in the locker room and off the field with his teammates and the media. While the Jets anticipate Ferguson and Mangold to be able to pick up some of the slack much moreso than they were able to in 2007, obvious poor play by any replacement will be loudly criticized. The job is going to come down to Matt Slauson, a second year pro drafted by the Jets late in the 2009 draft, and 2nd round rookie Vladimir Ducasse. The Jets would prefer Ducasse to get the job, as he brings the size to the position that the head coach would like to see. Ducasse has big time strength at the point of attack, with the raw power necessary to simply push players back and break their will. Ducasse has not played football for very long and may be a long term project as he seemed to struggle at times during minicamps. Slauson is more athletic than Ducasse, but does not show the same strength that Ducasse showed in college. His upside is not nearly as high, but he is familiar with the Jets offensive line coach from his playing days at Nebraska as well as from his 2009 season with the team. He has a good chance to earn the starting job.
Beyond the starting left guard competition there may not be much in the way of surprises when it comes to the final roster. T Wayne Hunter is pretty entrenched in the system and was brought back as a restricted free agent. His best position would be to fill in for Woody at tackle. T Rob Turner can fill in almost any position on the line and can even line up as an H-Back in certain packages. He would likely be the backup center in the event Mangold missed a few plays due to injury. Turner has been with the Jets for a few seasons now and he quickly signed his deal with the Jets to show commitment to the club. He battled injury last season, but if he is healthy should make the squad.
The remainder of the players will likely be vying for jobs on the practice squad. The Jets traditionally only carry 8 linemen and each spot already looks to be filled. The best chance to make it may be UDFA Charlie Tanner. Tanner was arguably the most athletic lineman in the draft in terms of measurables and can play guard and center and pitch in as a tackle if needed. He does not really seem to fit into any set role, but looks to be the one player that could push Turner for a roster spot. Tanner would also be an ideal fit on the practice squad due to his versatility and ability to fill in for injury at a number of positions. The other names include T Dan Gay, who spent a few weeks on the practice squad at the end of the 2009 season, G Marlon Davis, who had a brief stint with the Browns last season, C Robby Felix, a UFL player that had a tryout with the Ravens in 2009, and T's Michael Turkovich and Aaron Kia, neither of whom who made enough of an impression in the NFL last season to even get a real tryout.
Look for the Jets to carry their usual 8 players and store one or two on the practice squad. The best chances for the extra names to make the roster would be if there was either terrible play from Ducasse and Slauson in August or Woody to look like age could start to become a factor with his play. If neither happens, only nine of these names will have a chance to make the team in any form and the Jets may be content to carry eight and keep the rest of the names on call. If the line continues to be a position of strength for the Jets, the Jets will continue to be a solid playoff contender regardless of how the quarterback develops.
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