Colin Baxter looked lost in the Jets locker room as he searched for a place to put the playbook. It was the same look he had on the field, bewildered amid missed signals and botched snaps. The rookie filling in for Nick Mangold -- who coach Rex Ryan said should be back next week -- was taken out after one shotgun snap in the second quarter.
“I rocketed it back there,” Baxter said. “It was in the vicinity, but it was hot.”
In order to mitigate the damage, the Jets moved Matt Slauson to center and inserted Vlad Ducasse at left guard. But, if possible, the second year player out of UMass fared even worse -- standing nearly still on one Baltimore blitz as Ravens defenders shot through the gaps. Baxter was back in at center by the start of the third quarter.
The Jets offensive line was bad yet again, allowing a quarterback who had a broken nose, a badly bruised elbow on his throwing arm and underwent cognitive tests for a possible concussion this season to be repeatedly knocked to the ground again.
“I think things have to start more up front,” said wide receiver Santonio Holmes, one of the few to explicitly target the line. “We have to get a better job from our guys up front. They’re focused on it, and that’s going to be a big key. Getting Mangold back, he has been a big part that has been missing.”
Mangold, who sustained a high sprain of his right ankle in a win over Jacksonville, was on the field in Baltimore before the game testing his agility in front of a crowd including trainers, offensive line coach Bill Callahan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. He didn’t get the nod to play, but the team expects him to go next week when the Jets travel to New England to face the Patriots.
Rex Ryan referenced the loss in New England last season, said Slauson, showing that even when things look bleak they can still be turned around.
“It was tough, it was just one of those days you don’t want to talk about you don’t want to think about,” Slauson said. “It was just tough, it was bad, we’ve got to bounce back.”
Wayne Hunter is still struggling as the new starter at right tackle as the Jets expedited the process of getting the new center up to speed. Baxter fared well in the remainder of the Jacksonville game after Mangold went down, but he struggled in the loss to Oakland as well and his discomfort was evident after the loss to the Ravens.
“There’s the communication issue and then, another snap,” Baxter said.
The Jets running game didn’t even get started. Shonn Greene was the leading rusher with 23 yards on 10 attempts. The only other back to average more than a yard a carry was fullback John Conner with 15 yards on three carries.
Ray Rice made it sound easy on the other side. “I just followed the big men. The O line got it done,” said the Ravens running back.”
As Baxter stood trying to find a place to put his playbook, backup quarterback Mark Brunell sought him out. With some sensitivity for a rookie put in a difficult spot to begin with, he offered some words.
“Good job stepping back in there tonight,” Brunell said to Baxter. “Way to fight, way to compete.”