This is the fifth part in our position-by-position breakdown of the Jets’ roster. Tomorrow: Guard/center.
Focus: Offensive tackle
Depth chart: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, Wayne Hunter, Vladimir Ducasse.
Expiring contracts: Hunter.
Rear-view mirror: With Ferguson and Woody (when healthy), the Jets had one of the better tackle tandems in the league. Ferguson was one of the top pass protectors, deserving of his first Pro Bowl selection (he made it as an alternate in 2009). He allowed only two sacks, according to Stats, LLC. He wasn’t a road grader, and never will be, but any deficiencies he might have had as a run blocker were camouflaged in the Jets’ zone-blocking scheme. Ferguson was penalized only five times for 35 yards, outstanding for a left tackle. The Jets made a wise move by locking him up with a six-year contract extension.
Woody thrived as a run blocker. In fact, the Jets averaged 4.88 yards per rush behind right tackle, fourth-best in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com. Like Ferguson, Woody kept his mistakes to a minimum – only three penalties for 15 yards (plus one declined). He allowed four sacks, according to Stats. Woody’s issue was staying healthy. He missed the final three games because of a knee scope and injured his Achilles’ tendon in the wild-card game, requiring surgery. Hunter did an adequate job as Woody’s replacement, but he was penalty prone in limited action (four for 30 yards, plus two declined) and suffered some hiccups in pass protection (four sacks) when singled up against an edge rusher.
Numbers game: Ferguson has started every game in five seasons, a total of 80. So has C Nick Mangold, a fellow first-round pick from 2006. That makes them a historic tandem; they’re the only two offensive linemen since the merger in 1970 that entered the league together and started their first 75 games on the same line.
Crystal ball: The news here is that Ducasse, coming off a virtual red-shirt season at left guard, is slated to play right tackle – and that may not bode well for Woody’s chances of returning in 2011. It would be a enormous risk to hand the job to the unproven Ducasse, who failed to mount any sort of challenge in an open competition at left guard. Now he will be playing another unfamiliar position; he was a left tackle at UMass. So why do it? Ducasse was picked in the second round, and the organization evidently feels it has to back up its conviction.
Woody is battling the dreaded triple play – age (33), high salary ($4.26 million cap) and injury – but the man still can play. He's also a valued leader in the locker room. Hunter could return as a cost-effective insurance policy.
Hot Seat: Ducasse. The scholarship has expired, it’s time to earn his keep. He has plenty of raw talent, but he has a long way to go before mastering the nuances of a sophisticated NFL offense.
Position rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.0.