It figured to be a good measuring point for D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Now a veteran in his second season, the 6'6", 312-pound LT was matched up against Dolphins DE Jason Taylor for a third time on Sunday.
The results were encouraging. Taylor was held sackless and he had almost as many penalties (3) as tackles (4).
"When Brick did have opportunities to block him on his own, I thought he did a nice job," head coach Eric Mangini said today. "I think Brick has improved steadily, and he continues to work on the areas he's identified that he needs improvement in and we have identified he needs improvement in, and he's done some really good things. "
The soft-spoken Ferguson spoke matter-of-factly about his efforts.
"Our goal coming into the game was to work on technique things and kind of just improve the things I didn't do well our last two matchups," he said. "I just tried to go out there and it worked out well."
As a rookie, Ferguson was beaten by Taylor for a sack on Christmas night. Defensive end Vonnie Holliday also got by Ferguson for a sack in his first meeting with the Dolphins.
"You look at the things you did wrong, sacks that you've given up, and ask, 'OK, what happened there?' And you just try to alter yourself so you're not in that same position when you face that same opponent," he said.
Ferguson, the Jets' No. 4 overall selection in the 2006 draft out of Virginia, and C Nick Mangold, the No. 29 selection last April, will be centerpieces up front for years to come. Mangold had a tremendous rookie year and the anchor of the Jets' line has witnessed Ferguson's development.
"Brick is working real hard. Coming in together, we have the ability to bounce things off of each other," Mangold said today. "We've been doing some good work together and it's exciting to see the progress that he's made."
The offensive line had its best outing Sunday. The pass protection was solid and the run blocking opened holes for Thomas Jones' first triple-digit rush outing as a member of the Green & White.
"We are starting to jell as a unit. Not to say we weren't before, but I think the more you play with your teammates, it's a natural thing that occurs," Ferguson said.
Taylor, last year's AP Defensive Player of the Year with 13.5 sacks, was completely dejected following the loss.
"I didn't get to the quarterback," he said. "I suck right now. It's as simple as that. So there —there's your headline."
Keeping Taylor out of the headlines goes down as a win for Brick.
"Everyone has their own individual battles inside our offense versus their defense," Mangold said. "He did a good job and it's a testament to how he's been working and how he's been doing."
The Jets finish their season series with the Dolphins down in Miami on Dec. 2. The Ferguson–Taylor battle will get much attention then as well.
"This was our third matchup. The last two matchups haven't been as successful as I would have liked," Ferguson said. "This past one was a little bit better for me. We still have one more matchup to go. We're going to have many, many battles."
That even approach will help Ferguson throughout his career. There is always another test, another rival around the bend. Buffalo DE Aaron Schobel is next up and he torched the Jets for three sacks (two given up by Brick) last December.
"His situation isn't going to change week in and week out. He is going to face the best pass rusher," Mangini said of Ferguson. "It won't get any easier this week. It usually doesn't."