BGA: Offensive Line – Staying Grounded

I was looking forward to writing this week’s offensive line review. I thought I’d done a pretty decent job so far and fared reasonably well last year. However, SNY just took on an intern and they’ve decided that he’s going to write the offensive line review this week and for the remainder of the season.

Sure, he’s young, very inexperienced, ill-prepared and with a rough-around-the-edges style. There may be teething troubles at first, but they’re expecting he’ll learn and improve on the job. After all, he could be the future of BGA!

(Don’t worry, none of that is true.)

I just hope that underlines the absurdity of the situation at left guard. The Jets offensive line was pretty good for the first four weeks and isn’t getting any better. Brian Winters is overmatched, torpedoing the whole unit and potentially killing his confidence in the process.

Winters actually had some promising moments in this game, the best of which saw him pull to the right and block his man back to the inside. However, he was badly beaten for two more sacks and taken advantage of several times in the running game. By my count, he ended up on the ground on 16 of 55 plays this week. While he did have a couple of good pulling blocks in the first half, he’s still struggling to get that down. On third and goal, as Matt Simms “killkill’d” to a running play, Winters got in the running back’s way when he looked to have a running lane. On the next drive, he pulled and collided with the fullback, so that the run was bottled up.

I don’t like to kick a man when he’s down, but I honestly think it would be better for the team and for Winters’ development if he wasn’t playing. If the team is resolute that they’re done with Ducasse, then give Schlauderaff or Campbell a shot. I hate this phrase almost as much as “Pay the man!” but at this stage of the season, it’s worth asking: Could they really be any worse?

On October 11, offensive line coach Mike Devlin told Newday’s Kimberley Martin that Ducasse was “still big in our plans.” Since then, he’s played a total of five snaps in seven games and not seen action in four of those, including each of the last two.

Can we really expect the offensive linemen to get on the same page when the coaches can’t?

As for the rest of the line, they were pretty disappointing too, for the most part, although Jets’ quarterbacks were under pressure just 13 times and at least half of that was caused by Winters, the quarterback hesitating or the backs. The running game was statistically productive too, although 32 of the 99 yards came on a play that was not well blocked and, without that, they’d be barely above three yards per carry.

Willie Colon didn’t give up any pressure and did open up a good running lane on one play, but he let himself down in the second half by letting his man get off his block three times to make a stop. He also had at least one penalty for the ninth time this year and is tied with Khalif Barnes for the most in the NFL with 11. (The two face off next week in what’s sure to be an epic “flag-off”). On this occasion, the flag was harsh. Colon was called for an illegal block in the back on a play where Geno Smith dumped it off to Greg Salas and he cut back for a first down. The block didn’t affect the play and it looked like Colon targeted his man’s shoulder, but his man turned around at the last minute and Colon ran into him from behind where it would have been difficult for him to stop his momentum. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Dolphins hadn’t done exactly the same thing to Austin Howard, in even more egregious fashion, on the interception return late in the first half. Obviously that was not called.

Howard gave up 13 total pressures against Miami last year and clearly finds facing Cameron Wake a tough matchup, so limiting the damage to just four pressures this week was probably about as good as could be expected. One of those was a screwed up protection where he blocked down on the tackle and Wake was left unblocked, so he was only actually beaten three times. What’s more disappointing is that he didn’t really have any impact in the running game.

On the other side, D’Brickashaw Ferguson gave up two sacks, but in each case that was because the quarterback held onto the ball too long and then tried to avoid pressure coming from elsewhere (Winters was beaten to lead to the first sack and Chris Ivory on the other). He was beaten a couple of other times though. In the running game, he didn’t have much impact, other than on two plays in close succession in the second half where he drove his man well off the line. I’d like to see him doing that on a more consistent basis though.

Finally, Nick Mangold opened up some holes in the running game and was only beaten for one pressure on a play where the protection seemed to get screwed up again. One of his best plays this week came early in the game and saw him react to Winters getting beaten and coming off his own man to rescue the situation and allow Smith to get the throw off. Those are the kind of plays that most other centers can’t make.

Next up…we look at the receivers – but we don’t throw them the ball because they’re not wide open…