It seems to me like once the Jets get one or two good offensive lineman that they're content to fill the rest of the starting lineup with fringe players barely worth a backup position. Just because they threw a bunch of money at Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, that does not excuse the team from failing to find dependable players to fill the other positions of the line. With how important the quarterback position is to the team, why take the chance of an inferior lineman getting Mark Sanchez hurt? Not to mention, where is the depth this season? Nick Mangold, an all-pro center, is being replaced by a guy with zero starts? Wayne Hunter looks absolutely terrible and his backup Vladimir Ducasse looks even worse. Sadly, these are just the latest examples of a disturbing trend for the Jets that extends back several seasons. Let's take a look back, and I'll show you what I mean.
2003:After finishing 9-7 in 2002, the Jets lost RG Randy Thomas in free agency to the Redskins. He was replaced by Brent Smith who made the switch to guard after playing tackle for the Dolphins. In the 2003 preseason, Smith whiffed on the block that directly led to Chad Pennington dislocating his left (non-throwing) wrist and missing nearly half of the season. The end result: a 6-10 finish.
2005:The Jets offensive line was in a state of flux in 2005. Gone was RT Kareem Mackenzie, replaced by the Jets declining former LT Jason Fabini, who was replaced at LT by Adrian Jones. The Jets season essentially ended in Week 3, when porous blocking led to Chad Pennington and 2nd-string QB Jay Fiedler both being lost for the season with rotator cuff injuries within minutes of each other, leaving Brooks Bollinger as the team's top quarterback. The team finished the season at 4-12.
2007:For a season, it actually appeared that the Jets learned their lesson about the offensive line as they drafted both D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in the 1st round of the 2006 draft (picks number 4 and 29 respectively). Things quickly fell apart for the Jets when starting LG Pete Kendall got into a nasty contract dispute with the Jets and was soon traded to the Redskins, leaving journeyman Adrien Clarke to take his place. Clarke missed blocks that directly resulted with injuries to Chad Pennington (ankle) and later in the season, Kellen Clemens (ribs), causing them both to miss some time.
The teams that I used for examples certainly had flaws other than the offensive line, but none of those flaws resulted in an injury to the quarterback, arguably the most important player on the team. Look at the Colts this year. If it had been anyone on the team other than Peyton Manning who missed time, they'd be ok. They could survive losing Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, or Dwight Freeney and still be a good team. But losing Peyton? They'll be lucky to finish .500 this year. There's just not enough good quarterbacks out there, and most teams can't afford to lose the ones they already have.
Fast-forward to the present. The Jets released Damien Woody and replaced him with Wayne Hunter. Hunter's been around since the 2003 season, but has only started a handful of games over his career, all of them while he's been a Jet. So basically, the Jets handed the starting RT job to an unproven career journeyman. If Hunter was any good at all, why did it take him 8 seasons to land a starting job (he was drafted in 2003)? What was once arguably the premier offensive line in the NFL now has a gaping hole on the right side and Sanchez is starting to take a beating. With Mangold hurt, that hole on the right side seems a lot bigger than before.
I know the Jets are 2-0 and it seems too early to hit the panic button, but those wins are going to be meaningless if the Jets can't protect Sanchez and he gets hurt. With the protection as bad as it is, I don't see him lasting the season. Mark may not be the best player on the team, but he is the only one who is irreplacable, at least for this season. If he goes down, the Jets season is over. Hopefully, management learns from their past mistakes and they sign a quality lineman or two. They wouldn't need to be pro bowlers, just dependable and that would certainly be better than what they have now.