Jets offensive line: from best to worst

Admin - January 13, 2014

The Gang Green's offensive line was considered to be one of the best in the league just a few years ago. The unit that featured once a perennial Pro Bowler C Nick Mangold and his fellow first round draft pick OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson was young and fearsome, capable of both pass protecting and run blocking.

The 2008-09 version of the Jets' offensive line started the same players in all 32 regular season games. Besides the aforementioned duo, the line also included OG Alan Faneca, OT Damien Woody and OG Brandon Moore. Faneca, who was considered on the downside of his long career, was selected to the Pro Bowl squad in both 2008 and 2009, but then was cut right after the team selected OG Vladimir Ducasse in the second round.

  Rank in pass protection Rank in run blocking
2008 2nd 1st
2009 5th 5th

Fast forward to 2010. The Ducasse project did not work out and the departed Faneca was replaced in the starting lineup by another rookie, OG Matt Slauson. The unit actually improved, as shown by the statistics below:

  Rank in pass protection Rank in run blocking
2010  1st  4th

Following the euphoria of the two consecutive AFC Championship appearances, the Jets decided to let go of another proven veteran - Damien Woody. OT Wayne Hunter was his replacement in the starting lineup and that's when the things started really changing for the worse. Despite sending three of five starters (Mangold, Ferguson and Moore) to the Pro Bowl, the line's performance as a unit considerably dropped.

  Rank in pass protection Rank in run blocking
2011  13th  12th

In 2012, the struggling Wayne Hunter was replaced by OT Austin Howard, which resulted in a slight improvement and at least temporarily stopped the bleeding.

  Rank in pass protection Rank in run blocking
2012 10th 12th

Prior to the 2013 season Brandon Moore was let go and decided to retire shortly thereafter. Slauson was let go as well, and for the first time in all these years the Jets had to change more than one starter on their offensive line. Moore was replaced by veteran OG Willie Colon, while Slauson's spot was filled by a duo of rookie OG Brian Winters and (why is he still on the roster???) Vladimir Ducasse. The results turned out to be quite dreadful...

  Rank in pass protection Rank in run blocking
2013 20th 31st

Willie Colon turned out to be a pretty decent pickup. He was ranked 4th among guards in pass protection and gave up just one sack in the entire season. Ducasse gave up two sacks. Rookie Winters, however, led the team and all NFL guards with 10 sacks allowed.

Nick Mangold continued to be pretty good, just not his former Pro Bowl level good. He was ranked 3rd among centers in pass protection (no sacks allowed), but only 31st in run blocking.

Ferguson's performance, on the other hand, significantly deteriorated. The former first round pick, who was once one of the best at his position, gave up 8 sacks and was ranked only 29th among tackles in pass protection. His run blocking ranking was even worse - 67th out of 76. Austin Howard gave up only two sacks, but was responsible for 15 hits on the quarterback. He was ranked 39th in pass protection and 68th in run blocking.

The importance of the offensive line is clearly shown by the current playoff picture. Out of the four remaining teams only the Seahawks statistically have a worse line than the Jets. Denver's and 49ers' lines are ranked in the top 10 in both pass protection and run blocking. New England's line is not close to what it was during their Super Bowl runs, but is still good enough to be in the middle of the pack.

The four remaining teams will collide next weekend. If you're into betting sports, the current line has the Broncos favored by 5 points over the Pats. In the other matchup, the Seahawks are favored by 3.5 points against the 49ers.

All stats used in this article are taken from ProFootballFocus.com.