Randy Lange tells us how excited Rex Ryan is about his offensive line.
"I think the strength of our football team is probably our offensive line," Ryan said, "and that's a great thing to begin right there — four former first-round picks in the line, two Pro Bowlers and a couple of near-misses. I think that's a great way to start."
Ryan also credited Bill Callahan, whom he has called "one of the premier offensive line coaches in the National Football League." And Callahan trickled down the praise to his starting five of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Damien Woody.
"Just talking with them in the off-season about their own personal performances, I feel they want to get better," Callahan has said. "It's always a good sign when it comes from them. They’re all focused professionals who want to get better."
Where they were at was very high on some of the few measurables for O-linemen. As we’ve noted, the Jets’ 4.7 yards per carry was fifth in the NFL last season and the best season average in franchise history. The four touchdown runs of 40-plus yards combined by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington were also the best in franchise history.
The 30 sacks allowed of Brett Favre was middle of the pack in the NFL, yet the 1.88 sacks allowed per game was still in the top 15 (out of 49 seasons) in Jets and Titans annals.
Taking together, last season was only the fifth in team history that the Jets rushed for more than 4.0 yards per attempt and gave up fewer than 2.0 sacks a game.
One of the things I like most about Rex was the way he looked at competency when he put together his coaching staff. A lot of new coaches like to clear house, afraid holdover assistants loyal to the old coach could undermine him. The fact he was willing to keep guys like Callahan and Mike Westhoff shows he has the self-confidence every great coach needs.
The line is going to be one of the keys to the season. On paper, things should only get better. Five players become one on the line. These guys have a year of experience playing with each other. Familiarity with your partners makes it easier as time goes on.
The one thing that makes you a bit nervous is health. There probably isn't a more injury prone spot on the field than playing in the trenches. The Jets were remarkably lucky on this front a year ago. None of the five starters missed so much as one start because of injury. Maybe this was a sign of durability, but it will be tough to repeat that feat. There isn't much depth up front so even one injury could sink 2009. Just look at the effect losing one player, Pete Kendall, had in 2007.