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Breaking down the offensive line youth movement

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Matt Forte #22 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with Ben Ijalana #7, Wesley Johnson #76 and Brian Winters #67 during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Matt Forte #22 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with Ben Ijalana #7, Wesley Johnson #76 and Brian Winters #67 during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The offensive line of the New York Jets is a whole lot younger than last season as here’s a breakdown of the youth movement to win the battle in the trenches.

There has been a lot of scrutiny in all areas for the New York Jets.  Many fans seem to think that the offensive line may be one of the weakest groups.  Fun fact, did you know that in 2016, the Jets ranked 12th overall in rushing?  Imagine if the Jets had the lead in some of those games and could pound the rock? Who knows, they might have won a few more games than just five.

Keep in mind the Jets did not have a reliable No. 3 running back for most of the year.  Matt Forte and Bilal Powell took the workload and each put together some nice numbers as a duo.  They both totaled slightly over 1,000 all-purpose yards without a solid blocking tight end or a traditional fullback.  Elijah McGuire should compliment the group as a scat back and return specialist.

New offensive coordinator John Morton and running backs coach Stump Mitchell have come from systems with a power-running scheme where the fullback was heavily involved.  The extra blocker should take pressure off the line helping both run support and pass protection.  Julian Howsare looks to be the future fullback and should have plenty of opportunities to become a household name.

With the departure of Nick Mangold, many are concerned about his replacement. Can Wesley Johnson fill his shoes and start all 16 games?  I’m confident he can, without a doubt.  Mangold sat out eight games last season and Johnson played very well.  He is 26 years old and has been sitting behind his predecessor as an understudy for three seasons.  It’s Johnson’s time to grab the reins and help this unit protect the young signal callers of the future.

The most concerning and intriguing position on this offensive line has to be the tackle position.  The Jets have several players competing for the starting gigs.  Kelvin Beachum was brought in to replace one-year starter Ryan Clady but is already dealing with a sore knee from his prior surgery in 2015.  When Clady went down and Brent Qvale was hurt, Ben Ijalana was moved from the right side to the left.  Rookie Brandon Shell was the next man to step up and fulfill the duties at right tackle.

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Shell did fairly well in the three games he started while Ijalana teetered between struggling and maintaining quality protection.

Many still remember when Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh sandwiched Bryce Petty last December.  Hopefully, that is the last time we see one of the Gang Green quarterbacks take a hit that brutal.

One area the Jets can feel comfortable at is at the guard position.  Brian Winters and James Carpenter have been a solid pair over the last few seasons.  Both players have shown excellent rush blocking ability and bring physicality.  These two have become the veterans of this line and will need to help Shell and Beachum solidify this unit.

General manager Mike Maccagnan believes that obtaining an abundance of talent at a particular position presents the opportunity of “the best man wins the job” kind of philosophy.  Maccagnan’s philosophy is that competition in practice will translate into a high level of play come the regular season.  This will create beneficial results for the team as a whole.

Much of this team’s success will come down to the offensive line and how well they can gel into a solid group.  The Jets quarterback situation will require quality protection so they can develop properly. Only time will tell if the Jets offensive line can protect the youth movement.

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