The Jets' offensive line has helped sustain an impressive early-season performance by the offense, which is averaging 167.8 rushing yards per play and 5.1 per carry and has allowed only five sacks of Mark Sanchez. As successful as the line has been thus far, it will certainly have its work cut out Monday night when the Jets face off against the Minnesota Vikings and their imposing defensive line.
"I think we recognize what a good run defense they are," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "They've got the big guys inside. The linebackers are really good players. They're all underrated. They're fast. With the bright lights of Monday night, we expect to get their best effort and they're a really good unit."
The members of the Vikings front four are perennial Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen, tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, and unsung stalwart left end Ray Edwards. The matchup on everyone's mind will be Jets Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson going against Allen. Ferguson is charged with the duty of protecting Sanchez's blind side, and Coach Schotty is confident that his man will be solid as a rock.
"He tends to always step up and do a great job in these situations," Schottenheimer said. "It will be a good matchup. We have some things protectionally where we recognize what a good front four they are. We have a lot of confidence in all those guys and Brick is a guy that we expect to play really well."
Also along that left side is second-year guard Matt Slauson, who has had some ups and downs so far but whose play the past two games has been solid. The Nebraska product and his coaches believe he has matured through the first quarter of the season as a starter, but he still realizes the daunting challenge ahead of him.
"We've looked at everything," Slauson said. "We know that they're going to run a lot of games. They aren't going to blitz a whole lot because they're so confident in their front four so it's going to be all about 1-on-1's and really locking them down."
Schottenheimer praised Slauson and indicated that since the Jets' five linemen have about 200 snaps under their collective belt, they're better adjusted to play as one. That was evident in the game at Buffalo during which the Green & White rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts. That breakthrough performance will hopefully spill over to Monday night against the Vikings' active 4-3 front.
"We have gone against a 3-4 every week this season," right tackle Damien Woody said. "Now this is our first opportunity to go against a 4-3, so obviously your techniques and stuff like that changes somewhat because you're going against a totally different style of defense. This is when your preparation really has to be on point."
Schottenheimer, line coach Bill Callahan and running backs coach Anthony Lynn have formulated a plan that will help the Jets' running attack counteract the Vikings strengths up front. Even so, the big fellas in green will have to communicate, take care of their matchups and use proper technique to give LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene running room in addition to protecting Sanchez.
"It's a great challenge," Woody said. "As a competitor it gets you fired up because it's like two titans going against each other. We're second in the league in rushing and year in and year out they're one of the top three or four teams in run defense. So it's going to make for a great battle. So for people who like to see a battle in the trenches, this game, this matchup might be the best of the whole year."