Hackin’ the NYJ by Nolan Hack: The Offensive Line
The Jets had limited funds to use this offseason, so they decided to focus on the draft and cheap signings in free agency to tailor their offensive line, with Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson walking out the door.
Moore's absence will be felt immediately. He was solid for the Jets at the right guard spot for years. His replacement will be far from reliable. The over the hill Stephen Peterman or the inexperienced Brian Winters are the two candidates to man the right guard spot. Winters is the superior talent of the two but Winters played tackle in college and lacks polish on the inside. If Peterman gets the nod it will be due to his veteran experience and expertise. Peterman was a decent mauling guard for a number of years but has since declined into nothing more than a backup talent who can help in the run game, on a limited basis.
Winters can certainly turn into a quality NFL starter at the guard position. Truth be told, he's better off at guard due to his short arms and big frame. He's just not used to playing the position. Winters' best quality is that he's a fighter on the football field. He'll put all his might into an attempted block and put it all on the line on each and every play. He can hold a block at the point of attack versus a defensive lineman. And although his arms are short they are also strong. He has good raw skills to play the guard position. He's able to get out in space and pull. He's used to playing for an up-tempo athletic offense at Kent State, which will help acclimate to the fast paced NFL.
Those who follow the Jets know the left tackle and center positions are locked down as usual by pro bowlers D'Brickashaw Fergerson and Nick Mangold respectively. These two big fellas have kept this line passable at a minimum, after six time All-Pro Alan Faneca and three time pro bowler Damian Woody left the team. The Jets will once again fall short of the level the offensive line was playing at, during their two AFC Title appearances. But this unit can be a positive. It projects to be the most impressive unit on the Jets offense.
Austin Howard was a nice find by former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Howard was plucked off the Ravens practice squad. He's been a big upgrade in place of former Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter, who gives up sacks like he's running a charity for pass rushers. Howard is a prototypical right tackle. He's big, strong and a plus in the run game. Howard is an average pass blocker. The Jets will have to live with that, unless they want to find another top level talent to pair opposite Fergerson, in the future. Fifth-round rookie Oday Aboushi could be the future for the Jets at right tackle, but if Aboushi ends up taking Howard's job it shouldn't be for a while. Aboushi was drafted where he should’ve been, in the later rounds. He has power to his game but he needs to learn how to consistently use it. He's a project.
Willie Colon is slated to start at left guard for the Jets. Colon has turned himself into a viable starter on the inside but has had real trouble staying healthy over the past two seasons. He's missed 20 regular season games, in that time. If Colon can stay healthy, he'll add strength to the Jets front 5 as well as a veteran presence. Colon has championship experience. Colon started for the Steelers in two Super Bowls and won a world championship in Super Bowl 43.
Vladimir Ducasse is getting to the point of being a lost cause. He never shed the baby fat that he had entering the league. He's too inconsistent of a football player and the Jets can't trust him in the lineup for more than a play or two, at a time. The former second-rounder seems destined to have his career labeled as a bust.
The power and girth the Jets have added this offseason should help their running game. With Fergerson holding down the blind side and Mangold anchoring the middle of the line, New York's pass-blocking should be decent, at the very least. Winter's progression at guard and Colon's ability to stay healthy will be key for the team’s offensive line's prospects this season.