An offensive line is frequently judged by how well a team's running game is doing. So after two straight 300-yard rushing games that catapulted the Jets' run game to No. 1 in the NFL, past this week's opponent, the No. 2-ranked Dolphins, how does the Jets O-line improve from here on out?
"You win a game," left guard Alan Faneca told newyorkjets.com. "We had two 300-yard games but we only won one of them. There's room for improvement there."
Typically a recipe for success is to continue to run the ball, according to the 12th-year guard. Last week the Jets pounded the ball 54 times for 316 yards to get the win against the Raiders a week after taking 40 carries for 318 yards in the loss to the Bills.
Although the eight-time Pro Bowler had never been in consecutive 300-yard rushing games with Pittsburgh, in 2004 he was in back-to-back victories in which the Steelers ran the ball 105 times for 473 yards combined. The opponents were the Patriots and Eagles, who would go on to play each other in Super Bowl XXXIX.
This week Faneca and the Jets' veteran O-line will face a key matchup against another team that, despite a 2-4 record, is no easy prey. The Jets No. 1 rushing O will be tested by the Dolphins' fourth-ranked rushing D.
"I think they all stand out. They all play good together. They all fit the scheme," Faneca said of the 'Fins defenders. "It's not one guy getting the job done. It's a bunch of guys out there that all have a good idea of what they're trying to do and going out there and getting it done."
The Dolphins are coming off a 46-34 loss to the Saints in which they gave up 138 yards on 27 carries, the game after they yielded 138 yards on 30 carries to the Jets.
"It's one of those games where they're going to do their thing and we're going to do our thing," said Faneca. "We both know what each other's strength is. We run the ball and they're tough at stopping the run. It's going to be who's ahead at the end of the clock."
It's no secret, either, that the Jets have had success the past few weeks running the ball. So it's expected the 'Fins will gear up to stop their attack on Sunday.
But that hasn't stopped the Green & White's play selection thus far this season. They like to run the ball when teams know they're going to run it, and that's something the O-line takes pride in.
"By far this is the best offensive line we're going to face thus far," Dolphins LB Akin Ayodele told miamidolphins.com, "because they're strong, they work well together and they've really done a good job in creating seams for the running backs. I think defensively we've got a big challenge."
They'll probably want to focus on keeping veteran RB Thomas Jones out of the end zone as he's scored 22 touchdowns (20 rushing) in the Jets' past 23 games. But even if they manage to find a way to shut down T.J., starting his 63rd consecutive game — the longest active streak for an NFL back — they're still going to have to worry about rookie Shonn Greene.
He's no slouch, either, coming off a 144-yard performance at Oakland, the third-highest rushing total for a rookie in franchise history.
"It was fun. It was a good day," said Faneca, who was uncharacteristically seen in an Oakland defender's face after pancaking him on the Jets' first drive. "We're just going to keep doing what we're doing. And if teams find a way to stop it, we're going to find what else works and keep moving."