One of the biggest stories for the New York Jets in 2011 was their often unproductive offense.
Third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez struggles under pressure, something that was always a concern going into the 2011 season but manifested itself in a big way over the course of the year.
In Sanchez’s first two seasons in the league, ProFootballFocus.com ranked the Jets’ starting five as the single best offensive line unit in football for each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
However, after right tackle Damien Woody retired and the Jets promoted sixth man Wayne Hunter into the starting lineup, things did not improve.
Adding to that, right guard Brandon Moore had a slow start after offseason hip surgery, and center Nick Mangold suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the season.
Left guard Matt Slauson toughed it out the entire season with a badly injured shoulder, and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson had his worst season in years.
In the end, that top-ranked unit fell to 12th overall by PFF’s 2011 rankings, 14th in pass protection, 14th in run blocking and 11th in penalties.
Respectable, no question, but a major downgrade from the top ranked unit from 2009 and 2010.
The domino effect was felt in a major way, as Sanchez was pressured far often than ever before and he was ill-prepared for it, ironically because he didn’t have much experience under heavy pressure the previous two years.
The more he got hit, the less efficient he was, and with the running game struggling compared to the previous years, the Jets were left with a sputtering offense.
An inefficient offense led to a fatigued defense that spent more time on the field than they needed to, or deserved to. Everything unraveled, and it starts and ends with that offensive line.
These issues are correctable, however. If the Jets offensive line can bounce back to that elite level, the Jets should be able to find themselves thick in the playoff hunt once again.
They’ll have a new offensive system to work with, with Tony Sparano and Dave DeGuglielmo, but unlike last season they’ll have a full offseason to get acclimated.