Thursday, July 17, 2014
Training camp preview: Offensive line
By Rich Cimini
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:
Projected starters: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (LT), Brian Winters (LG), Nick Mangold (C), Willie Colon (RG), Breno Giacomini (RT).
Projected reserves: Oday Aboushi, Ben Ijalana, Dalton Freeman, Dakota Dozier.
Notables on the bubble: Caleb Schlauderaff, William Campbell.
Player to watch: Giacomini. The Jets took a calculated risk in free agency, letting a young, ascending right tackle (Austin Howard) walk out the door and replacing him with the unheralded Giacomini. It wasn't a small contract, either, as Giacomini signed a four-year deal for $18 million, including $7 million in guarantees. He and Howard are comparable players, although the Jets expect Giacomini to contribute more in the running game than Howard did. He comes from a run-oriented offense, the Seattle Seahawks, but Giacomini must make the transition from a zone-based blocking scheme to a gap scheme.
Top storyline: The guards. Colon underwent two surgeries in the offseason (biceps, knee), opening the door for Aboushi to get first-team work in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Drafted as a tackle, Aboushi settled in at left guard, pushing Winters to right guard, where he's never played before. Colon is expected for training camp, so what we have here, folks, is an old-fashioned competition, with three players vying for two spots. Can't you just see John Idzik smiling? This could shake out a few different ways, but the prediction is they'll start the way they ended in 2013 -- Winters left, Colon right. But that won't be etched in granite.
Wild card: Aboushi. The former fifth-round pick, coming off a red-shirt rookie year (inactive 16 games), has a chance to crack the lineup. After struggling in pass protection at tackle (he was one of the players who missed a block on the Mark Sanchez injury), Aboushi was moved to guard in the spring. It's not an easy transition, as Winters proved last season. If Aboushi can succeed, it'll give the Jets more youth and athleticism at the position.
By the numbers: This may surprise some people, but the Jets finished third in pass protection, based on the percentage of plays in which the offense controlled the line of scrimmage on pass plays -- 52.7 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This isn't commensurate with their high sack total (47), an indication that other factors outweighed the pass blocking -- mainly inexperience at quarterback and the inability of the receivers to get open on a consistent basis.