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Jets are better off on the offensive line than many think

Sep 15, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets guard James Carpenter (77) and tackle Ryan Clady (78) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets guard James Carpenter (77) and tackle Ryan Clady (78) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Jets have been receiving a lot of criticism for their offensive line as of late, but things are not as bad as many think in the offensive trenches. Heading into next season, the team has some solid young pieces to build on.

All in all, it was a poor 2016 season for the New York Jets offensive line as quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty had to deal with quite a bit of pressure while throwing the football. With that being said, though, the team found some bright spots along the way, which should make for a much better 2017 season.

To start off, the team had strong interior blocking for the majority of the 2016 season with an impressive rushing attack to show for it. The formidable guard tandem of James Carpenter at left guard and Brian Winters on the right was a very big reason for this.

Carpenter has been a borderline Pro Bowl player since he came over from Seattle in free agency two years ago. At the relatively young age of twenty-seven, he should be able to continue helping the team with his well-rounded style of play for years to come.

On the opposite side of Carpenter, Winters had a breakout season after years of mediocre play with Gang Green. He’s now had two seasons in green and white where injuries have cut his time short, but if he can stay healthy, the twenty-five-year-old will be a mainstay on the Jets’ offensive line for a great number of years.

At center, the Jets saw a very surprising turn of events as well. When long-time Pro-Bowl center Nick Mangold went down with a severely sprained ankle, backup interior offensive lineman Wesley Johnson came into the fold. As shocking as it is, there clearly wasn’t much of a drop-off in play on the offensive line when the involuntary change was made.

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Johnson is a twenty-six-year-old who has experience playing both guard positions and center. 2016 was a breakout season for him as well as he proved his worth to the organization in the playing time that he got. He is a restricted free agent this offseason, but assuming that the Jets tender him as most expect, they will have a very solid new leader on the offensive line.

The last very intriguing young piece on the Jets’ offensive line is right tackle, Brandon Shell. The Jets traded a 2017 fourth round draft pick in order to draft Shell in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, which shows you how highly they think of him. Coming out of South Carolina, Shell was thought of as a project player with the potential to be solid later on in his career.

During the 2016 season, Shell didn’t see much playing time until the last three weeks. Starting right tackle, Breno Giacomini, went down with an injury, which gave Shell the chance to start over the course of the last three games. He didn’t let the opportunity go to waste as he played solid football, and he very well may have earned a starting spot in 2017.

At the young age of just twenty-five, Shell is another player who could be with the team for the long haul. His potential seems to be better than many expected, and if he can build on his performance last season, he should surface as the solution at right tackle very quickly.

From right tackle to left guard, the Jets have some good, young players who will have the chance to solidify their spots with the organization next season. There is a gaping hole at the most important position on the offensive line though, and that is left tackle.

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In both the draft and free agency, there aren’t too many great long-term options, so expect the team to look for a stop-gap player for the 2017 season. Once the Jets can find their franchise player at left tackle though, the offensive line has the potential to be one of the better groups in the league for many years to come.

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