The New York Jets are in an unusual spot as they near final roster cuts, as their entire offensive line appears to be set. The Jets seem just about guaranteed to carry nine linemen, and although the guard position still holds some question marks, it doesn’t seem to be much competition left as they enter the last preseason game.
Starters: LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Brian Winters, C Nick Mangold, RG Willie Colon, RT Breno Giacomini
Reserves: OT Ben Ijalana,G/T Oday Aboushi, OG Dakota Dozier, C Dalton Freeman
The starting lineup is now set in stone, despite a late push from Aboushi to unseat Winters. Ferguson and Mangold remain the anchors, as they have been for the better part of the last decade. Both are high IQ, extremely durable players who remain among the better players in the NFL at their position. However, both are on the wrong side of 30 and Ferguson has shown a few signs of slipping. The Jets need these two to play at a high level if they want to succeed.
On the right side, Colon and Giacomini have gelled quickly, and we have learned that they are going to be an extremely physical pairing that is very good in the run game and decent in the pass game. We have also learned that they are going to be a very penalty prone pairing, which is not at all surprising considering their respective track records. The Jets can live with the occasional flag, but they can’t afford stupid penalties that cost the team (i.e., personal fouls).
Winters has solidified his hold on the left guard job, but he will only keep it if he performs. According to Pro Football Focus, Winters allowed 10 sacks last season, a league high among guards and a number made all the more alarming by the fact that he only played in 12 games. Winters has looked much better so far this year, but anything even close to the performance he turned in last season will be unacceptable and likely cost him his starting job.
Perhaps no Jet saw his stock rise more than Aboushi this offseason, who is now the team’s top backup on the offensive line despite not playing a single snap as a rookie last season. Aboushi is clearly much more comfortable at guard than tackle, but he is the backup at both guard spots and right tackle. Colon has a very questionable injury history and endured two surgeries this offseason alone, so it wouldn’t a surprise if Aboushi becomes a factor at some point this season.
Things are a little more questionable at the other positions. The Jets’ insurance policy for Ferguson is Ijalana, as a former second round pick of the Indianapolis Colts who is injury prone and has been mediocre at best this preseason. At center, the Jets have Freeman, who missed the final roster as a rookie last season after getting injured. There is nothing here that inspires any confidence, but let’s be real: if Ferguson or Mangold goes down for a significant period of time the Jets are in huge trouble.
The last lineman to make the team should be fourth round pick Dozier, who is converting to guard after playing tackle in college. Dozier is likely looking at a redshirt type of season where he will be inactive more often than not, much like Aboushi and Will Campbell were last season. Speaking of Campbell, he has not made enough strides in his second season to really impact the final roster decisions.
The only other player left with a real chance of making the final roster is G/C Caleb Schlauderaff, who has been a reliable backup for the Jets for the last three seasons. However, the Jets appear committed to the youth of Aboushi, Dozier, and Freeman to round out their offensive line.
The Jets are unlikely to keep more than nine linemen because they would have to give up a roster spot elsewhere to do it, so it looks like the decisions are just about made here. The Jets are hoping that Winters will make major strides and none of their veterans will drop off significantly. If everyone plays up to their ability, the Jets should have a good but not great offensive line this year.