Clement attempts to stop the Patriot defense
Anthony Clement is large and quiet.
At 6'8" and 320 pounds, A.C. qualifies as a big man. And since the Louisianan is not one to toot his own horn, not much was made of the 17-game tackle starter leaving the New York Jets as an unrestricted free agent on March 2, nor of him re-signing with the Jets 17 days later.
But Clement explained Monday he knew he wasn't going anywhere.
"I like being here," he said after a long day of workouts in the Jets' off-season program. "I was in Arizona for seven years, San Francisco for a year, here last year. The thing for me was that there are a lot of good players and good teammates here. I like the organization. Everybody is nice, they care about you. A lot of things are going on here in New York that I really liked."
And that doesn't mean that Clement likes the nightlife and has got to boogie.
"The things I like about New York are on the field, not off the field," he said. "I could care less about the city. If I had to choose cities, I like [Phoenix]. It's a nice place to live. But this is not about the city. It's about the team. The New York Jets are a pretty good team, a pretty good organization. That's what attracted me back."
The Jets are happy to have him. Clement came in with those eight seasons of experience and won the starting right tackle job from Adrian Jones beginning with the second preseason game.
But his first season in green took a little while to get going, especially in pass protection. Unofficially, he was involved, totally or partially, in almost a sack a game through the first 11 games.
But beginning with Game 12 at Green Bay, Clement became a right-side wall, yielding only a half-sack, to Buffalo DE Ryan Denney, down the stretch and into the playoffs. For the important Game 16 win against Oakland, Clement helped hold DE Derrick Burgess, the Raiders' leading pass rusher, sackless, which earned him head coach Eric Mangini's offensive player of the game award.
"I feel like it took a while for me to get back right last year," Clement said. "It took a minute, but I got back in rhythm."
Back in October, Mangini also credited Clement and not just Pete Kendall, the left guard in closer proximity to left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, with providing key input for the first-round rookie.
"I've really been pleased with the way the offensive line performed the last couple of weeks against some really good fronts," the coach said. "I think a lot of that goes back to the role of the veteran guys. Yesterday, Anthony was working with Brick after practice on his technique. We always talk about leadership. I think leadership comes in a lot of different forms. It's not always the pregame speech. You can be a leader in whatever way your character allows."
Every week, every month, every season, starting jobs must be rewon. Just because Clement started every game last season doesn't mean he'll start again this season. Jones is back, as is first-year player Ed Blanton, who's even bigger (6'9", 330) than A.C. Sixth-round rookie Jacob Bender (6'6", 315) likely will get some time at RT, as will others who make it to training camp.
But Clement also represents a measure of stability, a quality that all offensive lines crave. At the moment, the Jets are returning all five of their O-line starters from last season in Ferguson, Kendall, center Nick Mangold and right guard Brandon Moore along with Clement. That stability bodes well for Chad Pennington and the offense showing improvement in Year Two of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's scheme.
Stability also is important for Clement and his growing family — wife Fatima gave birth to their fourth child and third son, Caleb, on Jan. 2. He's spent time all around the country but has found a home that he didn't want to abandon after one year.
"I feel like this is the place I belong," Clement said. "This is where I need to be."