The key to a great football team is the strength of its offensive line. In a sport where contact is everything, these colossal men truly are the foot soldiers in the trenches.
They are the unsung heroes, men whose faces are hidden behind giant face masks and rarely receiving the credit they deserve. Most of what they do cannot be put down on a stat sheet, yet their contributions are invaluable.
The Jets offensive line is almost an exception to the general rule of anonymity for linemen. Prior to last year, to Jets front office went out acquired two big name players in Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, from the Steelers and Lions, respectively.
Add that to the Jets two first rounds picks in 2006; D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, throw in veteran Brandon Moore at right guard and you have an extremely versatile front line for the Jets.
Ferguson and Mangold were the first pair of offensive lineman picked by the same team in first round since the LA Rams in 1975. Ferguson was the Jets first selection in 2006, going fourth overall. The Jets sent John Abraham to Denver in order to acquire Mangold 29th overall.
The picks have paid off for the Jets, seeing as neither Mangold nor Ferguson have ever missed a start in their first three seasons.
Mangold, the Jets center, is the anchor of this O-line. Amazingly he has only been flagged for a penalty four times in his entire career, with only one flag in the 2008 season.
The 2008 season was a landmark year for the Jets on the offensive side of the ball.
The Jets reached 400 points for only the third time in franchise history. They posted 42 offensive scores, making that the most for the Jets in a decade, and both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington were voted to the Pro Bowl. Thomas Jones also rushed for over 1,000 yards behind the Jets offensive line.
With two inexperienced quarterbacks duking it out for the starting spot, a veteran offensive line is going to be key. Part of the controversy with the Jets and Mangini last season is that they sought out these big name lineman to give them a power football edge, while the play-calling down the stretch was questionable and the Jets stumbled.
Brandon Moore, the Jets starting right guard, has taken a different road, working his way up the ladder to becoming a starter.
He was signed as a rookie free agent in April of 2002 and is the only member of the Jets offensive line remaining from 2004 when Curtis Martin won the NFL rushing title.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the highly touted number one pick out of the University of Virginia, has completely lived up to his billing. His monstrous blocks at left tackle allow Jones and Washington to run between the tackles consistently.
Both Faneca and Woody have been selected to the pro bowl (seven consecutive times for Faneca) and both have played in the Super Bowl, bringing serious postseason experience to the line.
With Ferguson and Mangold entering their fourth season, the Jets arguably have one of the toughest lines in the entire league.
Experience in their running game will help open up a passing game with no proven number one receiver.
The Jets will need the standout year expected from the O-line in order to compete with the AFC East's tough divisional rivals.