Last Season Review
In 2008, '09 and '12, the same five Jets offensive linemen started all 16 regular-season games. This past season was nothing like those seasons. As has been well documented, only one of the projected '16 starters, LG James Carpenter, started all 16 games. LT Ryan Clady (who arrived after D'Brickashaw Ferguson's offseason retirement) went on Injured Reserve after Game 9, followed by C Nick Mangold, RT Breno Giacomini and RG Brian Winters.
As a result, 11 different players got at least two starts on the O-line, and 10 different lineups were used, with no one lineup working together for more than three games.
"You think back to 2015 and we had a lot of success and we were fortunate," GM Mike Maccagnan said recently about his entire roster. "This season, it was like every week you turned around and somebody else was getting injured."
Yet despite the almost weekly turnover, the line actually held up fairly well. The Jets were 12th in the NFL in rush yards/game and 14th in rush yards/attempt as Matt Forte early and Bilal Powell late often found some nice holes. In the pass game, the line was 21st in sacks/pass attempt and tied for 15th in total sacks allowed. And the team's 20 offensive holding penalties, 15 against O-linemen, were sixth-fewest in the league.
Top Images of the Jets Offensive Line During the 2016 Season
C Nick Mangold has said he plans to return from his foot injury that cost him eight games in all, wants to return to the Jets, and thinks he can still play at his Pro Bowl level — "I have no qualms about that." Head coach Todd Bowles concurred: "If he's healthy, yes."
A healthy Mangold flanked by Carpenter and Winters — who signed a contract extension after the final game vs. Buffalo — makes for a solid interior of the line.
As head coach Todd Bowles said about the injuries, "We have to see how bad the injuries are going forward and how nagging they are. But the big thing is the young guys had a chance to play and establish themselves, so, there is hope there." One of those young guys was rookie Brandon Shell, who was throw into the fray with RT starts over the last three games, acquitted himself well, and Bowles said, "I'm encouraged by him going forward."
Shell could compete with Breno Giacomini, another health question who, before undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in his back shortly after the season, told reporters, "I'll be back." Brent Qvale is another who drew experience with five starts, three at RT.
The big question is left tackle. Clady, who started the first eight games before a shoulder injury sent him to IR, is under contract. Ben Ijalana, who started the last eight games at LT after getting five starts at RT, is the line's only unrestricted free agent, while Johnson, who filled in ably for Mangold except for a few mistimed snaps, is the only restricted FA.