The Jets face the Dolphins this week and as usual the Dolphins fans are going to be saying how much better their O-Line is than ours (never mind the fact that they don't even have any decent players behind that line, but that's besides the point).
When people think of who is the best Franchise Left Tackle in the AFC - that is to say, a player that protects the blindside and gets push in the run game - the names that come to mind first in the AFC are Dolphins LT Jake Long and (oddly enough) Browns LT Joe Thomas. Most of the time, Ferguson gets left out a of the discussion during the year unless one of those two goes down with an injury.
Being a Jets fan and not a Dolphins or Browns fan (thank goodness!), I see Ferguson on a regular basis. I have yet to see one game, or even one play, where Ferguson gets beaten cleanly and gets a sack on either Brett Favre, Kellen Clemens, or that Sanchez guy. Run support - I don't know. Considering how much that is the job of the running back and left Guard I can't quantify it on my own. However, I do know those these statistics - the Jets have had more consistency running the ball in the last three years.
But getting back to the main point, Ferguson versus Long, I really don't know who is legitimately better on their own merits. Long has 3 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro selections after 3 years in the league. Ferguson has 2 Pro Bowls in 5 years. (Thomas has 4 Pro Bowls and 3 All-Pros in 4 years).
Maybe Long gets a little more hype than he's owed because of how high he was drafted. Maybe he is going to be the greatest left Tackle since Anthony Munoz. I have no clue. What I do know, is that unlike Jake Long and his perennial-playoffs-sideline buddy Joe Thomas, Ferguson has coaching talent to make him into one of the best Left Tackles in the League. In fact, I hear that the Jets have a pretty good player at Center as well who can give some support when needed.
As far as who the best Left Tackle is in the AFC, I think Ferguson is not it YET, but given just a little more time and maybe a healthy promotion for Bill Callahan, he can attain that title. Meanwhile, I think Joe Thomas has earned the title of best AFC Left Tackle because of his persona; success in SPITE of his team's performance, not because of it.