The Jets acquired a number of headliners in the off-season, but their March free agent signing of Damien Woody came with little fanfare. Yet Woody, the 6'3", 335-pound starter at right tackle, might be their most indispensable lineman.
"Since he played center, guard and tackle, he understands football really well," right guard Brandon Moore said of Woody. "He'll be able to make a call sometimes before I even get it out or I'll be able to make the call, so there's not a lot of indecision on that side of the ball. I think that's one of the benefits of him playing all three positions and him knowing the offense."
Versatility is prerequisite for head coach Eric Mangini, and Woody, a veteran of 133 career games, fits the mold. He started his career as a center with the New England Patriots, moved to play guard with the Detroit Lions, and didn't start his first game at right tackle until last November.
But he's made the transition to the outside appear seamless and Moore, a right guard who lines up next to Woody every play, appreciates his teammate's talents.
"The chemistry is really good," Moore said. "I'm playing next to a guy who doesn't make a lot of errors, he knows the game plan inside and out, and I just enjoy playing next to him."
It's only been five games but Woody likes what he has seen from the 2008 line. With him and left guard Alan Faneca, the Jets have a pair of new starters, and assistant head coach/offensive line Bill Callahan is also in his first year with the Green & White.
"We have really smart guys up front who work hard and they're coachable. If you have those ingredients, then you have something brewing as far as success up front," Woody said. "All of our guys in our room, we really want to be good, we want to be a top-notch offensive line. Along with Coach Callahan, I think the potential is there to do a lot of really, really good things. I'm excited about our group."
In the early going, the Jets have established a 60-40 pass ratio (174 dropbacks to 118 carries), so Woody and the rest of the linemates are often retreating back in pass protection. Favre, who's the NFL's fourth-rated quarterback, has been sacked 12 times and has often been afforded plenty of time to survey the field.
"I tend to look at us a multiple offense that will do whatever it takes to win a football game and I think that's the most important thing," Woody said when asked if the Jets were a pass-first offense. "The one thing the organization prides itself on is bringing in smart football players who can learn different things every week because we do change a lot depending on who our opponent is."
As the leaves begin to fall, the temps drop and the winds howl, Woody knows the Green & White have to have more success on the ground. The NFL's 27th-ranked rushing offense is averaging just 86.4 yards per outing.
"It's an area we need to improve upon. Everyone would tend to agree that — with the personnel that we have and with the coaches — we should be higher in the rankings and that's an area we're definitely working on to raise," Woody said. "We're just going to continue to work at it because we're going to need it as the season progresses and as the weather changes. You want to have a good rushing attack to keep defenses off balance and set up other things we want to do in the passing game."
The Jets have a solid pair of backs in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington and Woody believes their production will increase with time. A two-time world champion, Woody says there is no secret formula to success on the ground.
"You just have to keep repping in practice and keep repping in the game. As you keep going and moving along in the season, that's when you get better," he said. "We just have to keep repping it — there's no magic pill that you can take."
Jones, who's averaging 3.8 yards a carry, has already tripled his rush touchdown total from a year ago. He is also coming off the first three-TD game of his career as the Jets handled the Bengals, 26-14, on Sunday.
"It's good that he got some fantasy points. It's good to have your running back score touchdowns. I know he has really been itching to get the ball in the end zone, especially after the Miami game when he rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown," Woody said. "It felt really good to see him accumulate multiple touchdowns and that's something we want to do week in and week out because we're definitely capable of doing it."
Woody is a pleasant big man who smiles often. He is comfortable in his new surroundings and the overlooked lineman has a positive forecast for the Jets.
"That's one thing I love about this locker room — we have very good chemistry and it's only going to get better. We have a lot of new guys in this locker room but everybody is good guys and they love football and they love being around each other," he said. "I think that's going to carry us a long way this season."