In the lead-up to training camp, newyorkjets.com will be breaking down the key storylines for each position group. Today, we look at the offensive line.
On the same day the Jets promoted Jeremy Bates to offensive coordinator in February, they simultaneously announced the hiring of a new offensive line coach/run game coordinator in Rick Dennison. When Dennison was Denver's offensive coordinator from 2006-08, Bates served as an offensive assistant, QB coach/WR coach and QB coach respectively.
"Rick Dennison is a huge bright spot, in my eyes, for the New York Jets," Bates said. "I was with him for three years in Denver, so we have a close relationship. He is an unbelievable coach."
The Jets finished with the 19th ranked rush offense last season, averaging 106.4 yards per game on the ground. They did hit on some explosive gainers, ranking sixth in the league with 14 rushes of 20+yards and tied for first with five carries of 40+ yards. The message this spring was the Jets want even more balance and that's sweet music to any offensive lineman.
"I think the emphasis is really on the run, making sure we really run the ball consistently," said LT Kelvin Beachum. "Jeremy has already said we're not going to be just dropping back the entire game, so I appreciate that as a left tackle. Rico and JB are doing a great job of just putting us in a great position to be successful in the run game and then having the play action to be able to keep the defense on their heels."
Change of Seasons
The pain was almost unbearable for right guard Brian Winters. He suffered a torn abdomen in Week 2 against the Raiders and then gutted it out through Week 15, playing in 13 games. But his play wasn't anywhere near the level he expects of himself and the veteran is eager for a fresh start.
"It's going to be a game changer," he said of his health. "If you put an offensive guard out there with one leg and have him try to do what he's supposed to, it's kind of tough. I understand what you saw and what the fans saw, but us a group and us a team, we're excited. We have new pieces and everyone is healthy across the board. It's going to be fun. We have a new coach and it should be good with him. It's exciting."
Best Images of the Jets OL at Multimedia Day and On the Field
Long in the Middle
Late in the spring, center Spencer Long received a handful of first-team reps and knocked some rust off in the process. Long, who signed with the Jets in March, was limited to just seven games last season in Washington as he dealt with leg injuries and surgery on his quad tendon ended his campaign. The Green & White were attracted to Long's position flexibility, but the 27-year-old is penciled in at center.
"I think my best ball is yet to come at that position," he said after inking a deal with New York's AFC representative.
Zone Blocking Scheme
The Jets hope to get defenses on the move, stretching them horizontally and letting their backs find the openings to daylight. Communication and timing will be key up front with pulling and combination blocking.
"It's pretty much setting up the front side and setting up a backside cut for the running back. It's good for this line," said former Jets OL Willie Colon during an appearance on The Official Jets Podcast. "It's going to force the defense to kind of run sideways and allow the guys to get to the next level. When you have cutback runners like Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, it can be devastating."