This is a series covering the position battles in training camp and projecting the roster and depth chart for the New York Jets this season. Today’s installment will cover the offensive line.
The New York Jets have invested heavily in their offensive line, and the line is filled with recent draft picks who the team is hoping will develop in quality players. Many of those draft picks will be competing with each other for roster spots this season. Here are the linemen the Jets have in camp.
Tackles in Camp: Oday Aboushi, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Trey Gilleo, Austin Howard, Dennis Landolt, J.B. Shugarts
Guards in Camp: William Campbell, Willie Colon, Vladimir Ducasse, Stephen Peterman, Caleb Schlauderaff, Brian Winters
Centers in Camp: Erik Cook, Dalton Freeman, Nick Mangold
Projected OT Opening Day Depth Chart: Ferguson, Howard, Aboushi
Projected OG Opening Day Depth Chart: Winters, Colon, Peterman, Campbell
Projected C Opening Day Depth Chart: Mangold, Freeman
I project the Jets to carry nine offensive lineman across the three positions. There is a three way battle for the two starting guard spots between Winters, Colon and Peterman, but all three will make the team. The two roster spots that are being contested are backup center and the ninth and final spot. Freeman and Cook are the contenders for the backup center role, while Campbell and Ducasse are the two players who have the best shot at the final roster spot.
Let’s start simple. Ferguson will start at left tackle, Mangold will start at center and Howard will start at right tackle. Those are the three safest bets not just on the line, but on the entire offense. Ferguson and Mangold are former first round picks and each has made the Pro Bowl multiple times. The pair are by far the two best players on the offense, and they are arguably the two best players on the team.
Howard stepped in as the starting right tackle last season and proved to be a very solid player in both the pass and run game. The team believes that he is a long term solution at the position and will develop into a very good player.
Moving inside, Winters was the team’s third round pick in April’s draft, and he will contend for the starting left guard spot. He has the potential to be a road grader in the run game, and he has the athleticism to be solid in pass protection as well. On the right, Colon will undoubtedly start if he his healthy. When healthy, Colon is a top notch run blocker who could be a huge boost to the rushing game. However, he has only played in 12 games over the last two seasons, so his health should not be taken for granted.
The two backups who will clearly make the team are Aboushi and Peterman. Peterman is a reliable nine-year veteran who is insurance in case Winters isn’t ready or Colon isn’t healthy. Aboushi was the Jets’ fifth round pick in April, and the team believes he will become a solid backup with starting potential.
At backup center, Dalton Freeman was going to make the team uncontested until he recently sustained a high ankle sprain in practice. If healthy, he will make the team. However, the team brought in Cook as insurance this week, so if Freeman isn’t healthy then Cook will be handed a roster spot.
The battle for the last O-line spot is actually a very intriguing one. Ducasse is getting his last chance, but this year’s sixth round pick Campbell, wants to take it away. Campbell has the flexibility to play both guard and tackle, which is why I believe the Jets should give him the final roster spot. The team doesn’t want to give up on Ducasse, watching him play I can’t help but see the undeniable truth: he is just a terrible football player. Every team has draft busts, and the Jets need to move on from this one.
The offensive line is the by far the strongest position group on the offense, and if the guard situation gets settled they could be one of the better units in the league. How this group gels together is an important area to watch for the Jets this preseason.