I am a firm believer that the game of football is more often than not won and lost in the trenches. Everyone always gets caught up on what the running back is doing, or how the quarterback is performing, or how fast the receivers are on the outside, but people tend to forget the importance of the big guys up front. You could have the best QB in the world, if his line provides him with no time to make a read or throw the football, he won’t be able to do much. The Jets are entering an era where they might have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the league, so at least we know on one side of the trenches we should be pretty well covered for a while. However, on the offensive side the line has been in decline for several years now. I would even go as far as to argue that in the 2009 and 10 seasons the reason we made playoff runs like that was because of the dominance up front on the offensive line.
Slowly over the years that offensive line has lost it’s way, either through the loss of players or the decline of others. Furthermore, there is the still yet to prove himself Vladamir Ducasse who might prove to be just a second round draft bust. This past season Nick Mangold showed signs of decline through the first 2/3rds of the season, but definitely had a resurgence towards the end of the season (which could help explain the improved performance of Geno Smith). Perhaps his early struggles were due to learning a new system, and hopefully his ascending performance will continue into next season. The rookie Brian Winters had a rocky rookie season to say the least, although his performance did improve towards the end, will this trend continue, I certainly hope so. D’Brickashaw Ferguson was fairly reliable but failed to really excel and wow anyone, and he is 30 years old now, arguably a turning point for any NFL player. Ferguson has been a reliable member of the O-line since 2006, and an integral part of the stout lines in 2009 and 10 that helped the Jets enjoy some playoff success. However, the Jets should start looking towards the future sooner rather than later.
While so much emphasis has been placed on the skill positions, wide receiver, tight end, etc., the front office should not neglect or ignore the opportunity to bolster a unit trending downward. I believe if we can get the offensive line back to it’s 2009 form the Jets offense will make huge strides, especially if paired with an injection of young talent at the outside skill positions. This can be done with addition of depth and competition, which could happen in the later rounds of the draft, the undrafted free agent market, as well as the upcoming free agency period. John Idzik’s football philosophy seems to coincide with this approach, and his experience with finding diamond in the rough type players will help carry our offensive line into the future.