The New York Jets are hoping that they filled a big void on their offensive line at left tackle with a key offseason acquisition. Have they solved what could be a major problem heading into 2016?
This spring surprised more than one Jets fan when offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson announced his retirement from the NFL. Yes, many Jets fans were already talking about the slow decline they saw from “Brick” over the past two seasons. Yet, it seemed surreal to think someone else would be anchoring the left tackle position for the Jets in 2016.
The retirement announcement only seemed to grow the main issues the Jets had along their offensive front. The group played well at times last year, but like many Jet positional groups from last season, they struggled with consistency. With the loss of the three time Pro Bowler, Jet fans were beginning to panic.
In stepped general manager Mike Maccagnan to announce a trade with the Denver Broncos to bring offensive lineman Ryan Clady in to try and meet the high bar set by Ferguson over the past ten years. The announcement was met by a lukewarm reception among Jet fans. The trade saw the Jets receive Clady and a seventh round pick for the Jets’ fifth round selection.
Clady is a four-time Pro Bowler and will turn 30-years-old at the beginning of the 2016 season. He was taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Broncos. Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing 315 pounds, Clady anchored their offensive line and built a reputation around the league for his high level of play.
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Besides his four Pro Bowl selections, Clady was considered for Rookie of the Year in 2008 and in 2009 was considered the best offensive tackle by many sports analysts.
For his career, he was named a first selection All-Pro in 2009, 2012 and a second team selection in 2008.
To his credit, he’s also earned the Ed Block Courage Award in 2010 and owns a Super Bowl Ring for the Broncos huge victory in Super Bowl 50.
Clady hasn’t been without issues however.
Injuries began to pop up in recent years and they have caused Clady to miss significant time on the football field. In 2013, Clady was placed on season ending injured reserve after just two games of the season with a foot injury. He had a a shoulder injury in 2012 as well, but it came at the end of the season and he managed to play through it as he posted a year that saw him only be charged with a single season.
The 2014 season saw Clady back to full health and playing up to his Pro Day form. Sadly, the injury bug returned during organized team activities last season. Clady suffered an ACL injury in his left knee, placing him on injured reserve for the season and denying the Pro Bowler the opportunity to play in last year’s Super Bowl victory.
The Jets have seemingly put all their eggs in the Clady basket. The team signed offensive lineman Luke Marquardt this spring, but the young man offers nothing to the left side, as he was taken by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft and has never appeared in an NFL game.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Clady (78) prepares to block in the second quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The rest of the offensive line players when it comes to depth are inexperienced and have offered little to make themselves stand out to be considered a replacement for the loss of Ferguson. The Jets drafted Brandon Shell in the fifth round, but the big man projects to the right side at the pro level, and he’s almost ensured a couple of years on the bench to develop.
Offensive lineman Ben Ijalana backed up Ferguson last season, and has provided depth along the offensive line for the past five seasons he’s been with the team. Playing behind the ever dependable Ferguson has offered him little playing time. Ijalana has appeared in seven games in his career, and didn’t see a single snap in 2015. Ijalana will need to show growth this summer if the Jets can depend on him in a bigger role.
Clady is talented undoubtedly. If healthy, Maccagnan found good value at the position, if not it could be a very long year for whomever plays quarterback for the Jets this upcoming season. The Jets’ offensive line remains a real concern. The team has ignored the growing problem for the past several years, choosing veterans to fill the voids instead of youth. The end result has been inconsistent play up front and a lack of proven depth to step up in case of injury.
A lot depends on Clady, he needs to return to health and reclaim his Pro Bowl form for the Jets. The talent has been undoubted throughout his career, but at 30 and coming off a missed season, Jet fans are wondering if the team truly “fixed the problem” on the left side.
Can Clady hold the fort at tackle? Will the Jets have to “shuffle the deck” to attempt to get adequate play along their offensive line? Maybe you have a favorite depth player you think that is ready? We here at The Jet Press want to hear all about it! Please leave us a comment below and Let’s Talk Jet Football!!