As usual, the big fatties, the guys on the O side of the O/D trench can get lost in the deluge of championship game coverage. But not the Jets’ offensive linemen, who have drawn kudos from their head coach, a Green & White icon, and a new system of weighing the contributions of O-lines around the NFL.
“You’re seeing a prideful unit, a group that has a lot of ability,” head coach Rex Ryan said of his line at today’s final news conference of the week before Sunday’s Jets-Steelers title game. “There’s three Pro Bowlers in that group, or should be with D’Brickashaw [Ferguson], Nick [Mangold] and Brandon Moore. Wayne Hunter’s stepped right in for Damien Woody.
“And oh, by the way, Matt Slauson has done a great job, but he’ll never be considered as a Pro Bowl guard because of the fact that he’s a sixth-round pick, so it doesn’t matter how he plays. But I know one thing — he’s done a tremendous job for us.”
The icon is none other than Joe Namath, who always knew that his exploits for the Super Bowl III Jets started up front and mentioned it again regarding these Jets linemen after Mark Sanchez connected on three touchdown passes behind impeccable protection at New England.
“These things are only possible when the offensive line does their job,” Namath said on his Website. “So they have improved, and Bill Callahan, nice going getting those guys ready.”
Moore agreed with Coach Call’s input and noticed the vibe for him and his linemates all week long before the Patriots game.
“I thought we played a solid game,” B-Moore said. “During the week I felt like Bill Callahan and the guys in the room did a good job of setting ourselves up to play efficiently.”
Yet how to measure efficiency for an O-lineman or for a group of linemen. We can measure sacks allowed, for instance, and the Jets have given up only three sacks for a mere 12 yards in losses over the past five weeks. We can rank the rushing games, and the Jets, after finishing third in the NFL in the regular season, have gotten it done to the tune of 144.5 rushing yards per game and 4.3 per carry in two road playoff games.
Penalties? After their prolific pace at committing infractions most of the season, the Green & Whtie have settled down to have exactly three penalties marked off against them in each of the last five games. And the linemen have done their part, committing only seven of those 15 penalties and in the two postseason games getting caught for only one false start in each.
All very good, but might there be a passer rating system for O-lines?
There might. New York Life has partnered with Stats Inc. to create the New York Life Protection Index, which factors in passing attempts, ball-in-the-air passing yardage (excluding YAC), sacks, knockdowns and hurries allowed, and holding and false start penalties. All the numbers are boiled down to a grade from 0 to 100 for each line in each game.
The reason this is appropriate now is because the Jets graded out at 93.7 at New England, which was easily the best mark by any of the offensive lines that played in last weekend’s divisional-round games, and was also the Jets’ third-best mark of the year.
All impressive to the Jets’ linemen. But the right tackle made a fair point.
“I’m in the middle of it, I’m in the filmroom,” Hunter said. “We’re critiquing every foot and hand placement. I could see where, looking downward from the stands, you could say, yes, that was probably one of our best games this season. But for me being an offensive lineman, I think we could’ve done a lot of stuff way better.”
Translation: The Jets are gunning for an A+ two nights from now in Pittsburgh.
Ryan fielded one more question about Dennis Byrd coming to Pittsburgh to serve as the Jets’ honorary captain on Sunday. And his answer revealed him, if fans didn’t no it already, to be a fan of this franchise from way back.
“I believe in the history, in the guys that went out there and laid it on the line for this organization,” he said. “It means something for me, and also having my dad here for eight years. The history of the guys who’ve played and coached here, I wanted to make sure we recognized that. That’s why we have team pictures of every Jets team we’ve ever had downstairs, outside the cafeteria.”
Rex also had plaques put up of every jersey number ever worn in Jets/Titans history, along with every player who wore each number.
“That’s almost a college-y thing, but I want players to know who wore that jersey that they’re in right now,” he said. “And when our former players come here with their families, they can look on the wall and say, ‘There it is, No. 67, Dave Herman.’
“I wanted our former players and former coaches to be a part of our team’s success. When Dennis Byrd sent me that jersey of his and that note, it just blew me away. It’s such an honor and he thought I was worthy to have that jersey, which I’m not even close to being.”
One more reason Ryan is a coach that many players around the NFL might want to play for someday.
As Ryan predicted, Jason Taylor (concussion) climbed the injury ladder, from did not practice on Wednesday to limited on Thursday to full-go today. He is probable to play against the Steelers. The only other difference in the Jets’ I-list was DE Shaun Ellis, one of the stars of the Patriots victory, not practicing today and being listed as questionable.
But as Rex summed it up, “He’s going to play. They’re all going to play. They’re questionable … they’re playing. That’s pretty much it.”
Mark Sanchez, conducting a rare Friday news conference, was asked about that sore right shoulder of his. “It feels, honestly, really good,” he said. “Every week it’s gotten better. Last week is the best it’s felt. This week’s even better.” … Ryan declared today’s final practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center fieldhouse as “outstanding. The focus was great, as you would assume it would be for a game of this magnitude.”
The Steelers’ health also improved for a game of this magnitude, as we expected it would. Only four players remain on their I-report. DE Aaron Smith (triceps) is doubtful, CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and S Will Allen (knee) are questionable, and S Troy Polamalu (Achilles) is probable after his first full practice of the week.
Tags: Bill Callahan, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Shaun Ellis, Wayne Hunter
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