Key To the Season: It All Starts in the Trench

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Key To the Season: It All Starts in the Trench
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

I planned to write a follow up article on my 53 man prediction, however with Mike Tannenbaum seemingly hopped up on sugar, the roster changes daily, so if I were to write about the 53 man roster, it would likely be old news in hours. Over the past few days we have seen players signed and experience a Jets career of 24 hours before being released.

One area that is mentioned a lot this year is the need to keep the ball on the ground, to run the football. This is the key to the Jets season is the proclamation from Jets fans, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene, this is where the battle will be won and lost.

There is definitely some truth to that, but the truth behind the truth, another layer peeled, is that it all comes down to the offensive line. You can't run the football without having a good offensive line. We could have Adrian Peterson and LT taking the hand-offs but if the offensive line got no push, we wouldn't see the expected results.

This is where I think the Jets have the advantage, people like to talk about the rookie QB, and the inexperience of the WR corps, but if we are going to run the football as much as Ryan wants, then the combination of Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, Brandon Moore, Damien Woody and D'Brickashaw Ferguson are going to be the reason the battle is won or lost.

Looking at the names, there is reason to feel confident as a Jets fan. I know some will be struggling with that motion, if you read ESPN or FOX, and take note of the predicted fourth place finishes this year. (Worse than the Bills? really?)

We have a great mix up front, we have the developing youth, with the seasoned veterans. 2/5 of this line-up is very young in Nick Mangold who is already one of the best centers in the whole game, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who has made consistent improvements ever since he was drafted, and has confidently predicted a pro bowl place for himself this year, a concept that many Jets fans find easy to believe.

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the work of KC Joyner, the author of 'Scientific Football 2006' and 'Scientific Football 2009'. However he breaks down some of the finer points in football that are sometimes overlooked, and he did a excellent job with the 2008 New York Jets offensive line.

He calculated the success rate of the point of attack block win percentage and the yards per attempt as a result, and his findings on the New York Jets line of 2008, were eye opening, and it moves to show just how under rated some players are.

For example, Nick Mangold the young center of the Jets held a point of attack block win percentage of 94.3 percent, to put this in perspective from the 2006 findings, the most successful center was Dennis Norman playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 91.2 percent, however the league average was 78.5 percent. Putting into perspective just how successful Nick Mangold has been.

The yards per attempt on the successful POA of Nick Mangold was 6.1. 6.4 for Damien Woody, 5.8 for Brandon Moore, 5.4 for Alen Faneca and 4.9 for D'Brickashaw Ferguson. The successful POA win percentage for each was 94.3 percent for Mangold, 89.5 percent for Damian Woody, 87.8 percent for Alan Faneca, 86.7 percent for D'Brickahsaw Ferguson and 85.4 percent for Brandon Moore.

To read more on this subject I really would advise picking up the work of JC Joyner's Scientific Football 2009.

It also documents the type of run plays that are called and how successful they are, for example, his findings on the 2008 New York Jets were that:

Counter—56 rushes, 288 yards, 5.1 YPA

Draw—30 rushes, 123 yards, 4.1 YPA

Slant—104 rushes, 494 yards, 4.8 YPA

Again this is KC Joyners work and not my findings, but I think that it's a important to get these findings out there in terms of the ever evolving ways to analyze the production of a offensive line.

"What is impressive about these totals is that it shows the Jets’ O line was capable of doing every type of block well. The counter play is a man blocking smashmouth play, the draw requires a certain level of finesse and the slant calls for a coordinated blocking effort by all five linemen. New York’s YPA in each of these shows that they were adept in every area. That is a rare trait and it is why, in my view, the Jets offensive line was second maybe only to the Giants in overall run blocking prowess last year. It also indicates that Rex Ryan shouldn’t have any trouble leaning on this area of the team in 2009."-KC Joyner

I have always been of the opinion that you simply can not judge a team based on stats alone, especially not a football team, however when you look at the numbers above it is easy to see why Rex is confident in running the football with this team, and why there is validity to the message that Mark Sanchez will not have to win the game by himself.

D'Brickashaw Ferguson the LT of the Jets will come up against some of the best pass rushers in the game this season, and will get off to a very tough start as he faces Mario Williams and the Houston Texans in week one. However his pass protection has continued to improve since he got here, and confidence from him and from the fans is running high. I was able to ask him earlier this week if there was any added pressure in blocking for a rookie QB, and he replied:

"Not really, we have had a number of different QBs these past four years, From Chad to now Mark, every year has been different, but the pressure to keep the all healthy has been the same"

If the offensive line can re-produce the production from a year ago in 2009, and possibly improve with another year experience playing together there is reason to be optimistic, and while the schedule is very difficult, especially in the early weeks of the season, don't feel downhearted by the medias analysis of this team.

The battle will be won in the trenches, and we happen to have some pretty good men fighting.

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