Camp preview: Offensive line

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
6:00
AM ET
Breaking down the Jets, position by position, as we head to training camp:

Position: Offensive line

Projected starters: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (LT), Matt Slauson (LG), Nick Mangold (C), Brandon Moore (RG), Jeff Otah (RT).

Projected reserves: Wayne Hunter (OT), Vladimir Ducasse (G), Caleb Schlauderaff (G/C), Austin Howard (T), Robert T. Griffin (G).

New faces: Otah, Griffin, Heyer.

Going, going, gone: Robert Turner (C/G).

Player to watch: Clearly, the Jets lack confidence in Hunter, trading for Otah on the eve of camp. It will be an open competition at right tackle. If healthy, Otah is the better player. The Jets can't afford a repeat of last season, when Hunter allowed 8.5 sacks and committed 11 penalties. The offense can't function with that kind of inefficiency. New coordinator Tony Sparano is a former O-Line coach, so he's all about protecting the quarterback. He'll max-protect, giving Hunter/Otah as much help as possible. Of course, the scheme helps only so much; last season, it couldn't prevent Dolphins RT Marc Colombo from being a human turnstile.

Potential strength: This is a proud, seasoned group of starters -- and this is a pride season for the O-line. Excluding quarterback, no unit on the team absorbed more criticism last season than the line, which for years ranked among the best in the league. The pass protection slipped (one sack per 14.7 dropbacks, down from 19.8) and the running game sputtered (3.8 yards per carry, down from 4.4). Nevertheless, all five starters return, determined to prove last year was an aberration. In other words, the big fellas have a serious chip on their shoulders.

Potential weakness: Can the line turn back the clock to 2009-10 and play Ground-and-Pound football? Therein lies one of the keys to the season. The starting five wasn't able to control the point of attack last season the way it did in previous years. It's hard to impose your will on an opponent when your strong-side tackle (Hunter) isn't an elite run blocker. In 21 starts with Hunter at right tackle, dating to late in the 2010 season and including the postseason, the Jets have hit the 130-yard mark only four times. The 340-pound Otah will help because he's a road grader when healthy. If the Jets can't run, it'll be a long year.

Wild card: This category should be re-named, "Waiting on Vlad." The Jets have been waiting for two years for Ducasse to resemble the player they envisioned when they picked him in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has bounced back and forth between left guard and right tackle, trying to find a niche. It looks like he'll be at guard in camp, backing up Slauson. If the light goes on, Ducasse could give Slauson (coming off major shoulder surgery) a run for the starting job. But does anyone really believe that will happen?

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?