*This is the latest in a series of nine Radar entries over the past five weeks detailing trends in the AFC East, downward tendencies each division team wants to correct for the coming season and upward strides that each team wants to continue into 2009: *
Here's a shoutout to the Jets' starting offensive linemen, who had one of the best OL campaigns in franchise history last season and are back intact to kick their play up a notch.
Rex Ryan noted the past success and future promise at the NFL Combine in February.
"I think the strength of our football team is probably our offensive line," Ryan said, "and that's a great thing to begin right there — four former first-round picks in the line, two Pro Bowlers and a couple of near-misses. I think that's a great way to start."
Ryan also credited Bill Callahan, whom he has called "one of the premier offensive line coaches in the National Football League." And Callahan trickled down the praise to his starting five of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Damien Woody.
"Just talking with them in the off-season about their own personal performances, I feel they want to get better," Callahan has said. "It's always a good sign when it comes from them. They're all focused professionals who want to get better."
Where they were at was very high on some of the few measurables for O-linemen. As we've noted, the Jets' 4.7 yards per carry was fifth in the NFL last season and the best season average in franchise history. The four touchdown runs of 40-plus yards combined by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington were also the best in franchise history.
The 30 sacks allowed of Brett Favre was middle of the pack in the NFL, yet the 1.88 sacks allowed per game was still in the top 15 (out of 49 seasons) in Jets and Titans annals.
Taking together, last season was only the fifth in team history that the Jets rushed for more than 4.0 yards per attempt and gave up fewer than 2.0 sacks a game. Here is the list, along with the win-loss records for that year and the next year (* denotes playoff team):
As we all know, rankings mean nothing without the wins to accompany them. But the Jets have the 1981 and 2001 teams as guides for the hoped-for trip to the promised land in 2009. And as Callahan said about his O-line, "Now that you've had a little taste of success, you want to go back and get more. We know we can improve on where we're at."