This is the fourth of eight position reviews of the Jets' 2010 season that will be appearing in the next several weeks on newyorkjets.com.**
They're the unsung heroes and the big beasts in the trenches. They rarely get the credit or the attention they deserve. Most quarterback protectors and running lane plows keep a low profile.
But not the Jets offensive linemen. With big personalities like Nick Mangold and Damien Woody and the sociability of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Moore and newcomer Matt Slauson, the Green & White's offensive line was not only one of the most likeable but one of the best in the NFL this year.
Head coach Rex Ryan is fully aware of how crucial his offensive line play is to the team's success.
"It's always important," Ryan said. "The lines basically are the most important part of the games. I know all of the skill positions are the ones that get all of the press and all the notoriety. It always comes down to blocking and tackling. That's where most games are won."
Throughout 2010, during the 11-5 regular season and on to yet another berth in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets rode their offensive line to success. Running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene led the rushing attack that finished fourth in the NFL with 2,374 yards. In addition, the Jets allowed only 28 sacks all season, tied for eighth-best in the league.
This line began to be built in 2006 with the selection of Mangold 29th overall after Ferguson was taken fourth.
"Nick is great," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said during the 2010 playoffs. "I can't tell you the amount of things he does. Without question, he's playing the best I've ever seen him play."
It wasn't just Mangold who made a name for himself this year, as Ferguson, Mark Sanchez's blind-side defender, played in his second Pro Bowl. Woody, the right tackle, is a former Pro Bowler and a wily veteran. Right guard Brandon Moore is regarded as one of the top guards in the NFL, despite being an undrafted free agent defensive lineman. Ever since 2005, Moore has not missed a start. And Matt Slauson, the second year man and disciple of offensive line coach Bill Callahan, did a remarkably good job at left guard in his first season as a starter.
"I think you've seen a prideful unit and a group that has a lot of ability," Ryan said. "You look at that line and there are three Pro Bowlers in that group, or should be with D'Brickashaw, Nick and Brandon Moore. Then you have Damien Woody, Wayne Hunter, and then Slauson. By the way, Slauson has done a great job, but he'll never be considered a Pro Bowl guard just because of the fact he was a sixth-round pick. It doesn't matter how he plays. But I know one thing, he's done a tremendous job for us."
Looking ahead to next season, there should be continuity along the O-line, although there is certainly concern about the health of Woody, who was bothered the second half of the season by a right knee injury, only to miss the last two playoff games with a left Achilles injury.
Hunter replaced Woody as the RT starter for five of the last six games and held his own against the likes of Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley, Bears DE Julius Peppers and Colts DE Robert Mathis. And the Jets had Vladimir Ducasse, their second-round rookie, waiting in the wings.
"I've always said that we have the best backup tackle in the league in Wayne Hunter," Ryan said. "He's played a lot of football for us and we have a lot of confidence in Wayne."
"Wayne has done a great job," Tannenbaum agreed. "The way we played the multiple-tight-end set, Wayne had a lot of reps at tight end. Having depth there with Robert Turner and Vladimir was important coming down the stretch. We needed all of them and they all played their roles well. Vlad is certainly a big part of our future."
All in all, it appears that the core of the Jets offensive line will be intact for next season and that the depth at the position is very solid, giving Ryan's crew a chance to be among the league leaders in rushing and pass protection yet again next year.
This season marked the fifth time in franchise history and the first time in 27 seasons that the Jets had seven offensive line selections for the AFL All-Star Game and/or the NFL Pro Bowl in a five-year span:
|Jets' Pro Bowl O-Linemen
|Winston Hill (4), Dave Herman (2), Sherman Plunkett (1)
|Winston Hill (5), Dave Herman (2)
|Winston Hill (5), Dave Herman (2)
|Marvin Powell (5), Joe Fields (2)
|Nick Mangold (3), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (2), Alan Faneca (2)
Wednesday —**Running Backs**
Friday — Wide Receivers/Tight Ends