Damien Woody and the New York Jets are a marriage made in green heaven.
Woody knows why he wanted the Jets. It had to do with Eric Mangini.
"Yeah, that definitely was part of it," he said of the Jets head coach, with whom he worked on the New England Patriots from 2000-03. "Just my familiarity with Eric and the philosophy he has, the core values he has, those are things I was definitely looking for. I really admire him as a coach. The preparation, the structure of the things he does are for the team."
And Woody acquired that respect even though he has always been an offensive lineman and Mangini coached defense in Foxboro.
"He was really familiar with all the guys on the roster," he recalled. "Eric was a great guy, a funny guy to work with, a relatively young guy. He had a lot of energy. So when it came time for free agency and this situation popped up, it was a pretty easy decision."
As for why the Jets would want Woody, well, they had some openings for offensive linemen, experience required. Thus in March, Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum brought in left guard Alan Faneca, entering his 11th pro season, and Woody, entering his 10th.
"Me and Alan, what we bring is just a veteran experience, playing a lot of plays, playing in multiple systems," he said. "We're just bringing a wealth of knowledge to the young guys who really haven't had a lot of experience in this league so far."
Woody, in his first extensive interview since arriving on the Jets after four seasons with the Lions, told newyorkjets.com after Thursday's OTA practice that everything we've always heard about an O-line needing cohesion, chemistry and camaraderie is still true.
That belief led to a recent night out at a Brazilian steakhouse, Churrascaria Riodizio in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., not far from the Jets' Hofstra University training complex. Woody's not sure, since with everything going on in his and his family's move from Detroit "I don't know my right from my left now," but even with the presence of the Jets' linemen and the quarterbacks in the restaurant, he may have picked up the hefty tab.
It was a price the 6'3", 320-pounder was glad to pay to start a tradition among him and his new linemates.
"It goes for any offensive line at any level," he said. "The offensive line really has to be that unit that jells, and it's the hardest unit to jell. So we just wanted to get on top of it as quickly as possible. Me and Alan in particular, we wanted to get to know the guys and just go from there."
The jelling part is much appreciated by the Jets' quarterbacks. On Thursday, Chad Pennington was asked about his new line and said of Woody and Faneca:
"They've seen a lot of football and have been very successful in their careers. We have a really good mix of veterans and young players where our young players can really learn from these veterans coming in that we brought in. They've seen a lot of football, they've been successful and they know how to play the game."
And Kellen Clemens credited Tannenbaum and Mangini.
"They went out and, speaking specifically to the front five, got two very good players in Alan and Damien, guys that are really going to help," Clemens said. "Things are definitely moving in a positive direction."
It is assumed that Woody will be the right tackle on the Jets' rebuilt OL, for several reasons: With Anthony Clements' departure, there is an opening, he started the last five games of his Lions career there, and that's where he was lining up during Thursday's practice.
But another reason Mangini likes Woody and vice versa is because the former first-round draft pick out of Boston College has been around. In his 125 NFL games, including playoffs, he's made starts at four of the five OL positions: 63 at center, where he started out with the Pats; 43 at RG, where he began with Detroit in '04; 14 at LG, mostly in 2003, and those five at RT to finish with the Lions.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Woody is the only NFL offensive lineman active in 2007 who has at least five career starts each at center, guard and tackle. And he and Jamar Nesbit of New Orleans are the only active O-lineman to make at least one career start at four of the five line positions.
So where does he play as a Jet? Woody knows his coach and he knows himself.
"I'm going to play the position that's going to best help the team win," he said. "Whatever they want me to do, I'm just going to go out there and get the job done."
He also declined to compare the early mood of his latest team with that of any other teams of his acquaintance. But he does like the vibe he's feeling from the Green & White.
"The guys in the locker room have been great. Everybody gets along with each other, everybody interacts with each other," Woody said. "It all starts with the chemistry. You've got to have that chemistry on a team. And that's one thing I feel really good about is our chemistry. Now we've just got to build."