It was almost painful to watch the New York Jets‘ offense last season, as Mark Sanchez struggled to complete half of his pass attempts in a sputtering offense that finished 30th in the NFL in yards per game.
But for all of the Jets’ offensive struggles, and there were certainly plenty, you can’t blame the big guys up front.
Despite not getting the respect or recognition they’ve gotten in years past, the Jets offensive line took a big leap forward in 2012, ranking third out of the 32 teams in ProFootballFocus.com’s year-end offensive line rankings.
PFF ranked the Jets third in run blocking, seventh in pass protection and third in penalty discipline, leading to an aggregate ranking of third overall, besting all but two of the offensive lines in the NFL in 2012.
Center Nick Mangold, left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and right guard Brandon Moore all had outstanding seasons in 2012, despite nary a Pro Bowl selection between them after all three were selected the year before.
The Jets employed a platoon at left guard between Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse, and they both held up pretty well as a tandem. Slauson did better in pass protection, while Ducasse did well as a run blocker.
The biggest personnel change on the offensive line in 2012 was the emergence of right tackle Austin Howard, a 25-year-old journeyman who started all 16 games and really found his footing as the year went on.
In his first year as a starter, Howard was one of the best run blocking tackles in football, grading out fourth among right tackles in run blocking and eight overall among all tackles, per PFF’s grading system.
It’s encouraging to see the Jets offensive line, the backbone of their offense, perform so well. Ferguson, Mangold and Howard should be cornerstones for years to come, while the two starting guards are free agents to be.
However, if the offensive line is the backbone, then I suppose the skill position players are the extremities, and in 2012 the Jets were practically quadruple amputees if I’m going to ride this metaphor into the ground.
Mark Sanchez was awful, and his receivers were young and inexperienced after losing Santonio Holmes for the season. None of the running backs or tight ends were anything special either, and the rest was history.
In the end, even with one of the elite offensive lines in football, the awful play from the skill positions ruined any opportunities the offense had to succeed, culminating in one of the most unwatchable offenses in the league.
The silver lining is that the Jets can breath easy knowing that their offensive line should be a big team strength again in 2013 and beyond, even with the uncertainty at the guard spots with their starters hitting the open market.
The foundation to build upon is solid, and while it won’t be easy to revamp the skill positions (especially quarterback), it’s certainly easier knowing that the offensive line should be a strength for the foreseeable future.