Jets’ offensive line key to playoff hopes

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the play of the offensive line can affect the New York Jets playoff hopes.

Obviously Brett Favre is going to dominate the headlines in New York this fall, but the Jets’ playoff aspirations are going to rest more on their offensive line than Favre’s cannon right arm.

In the 2006 NFL Draft, much to the dismay of some of their fans, the Jets selected monster offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson instead of a potential franchise quarterback in Matt Leinart. With their second pick in the first round (acquired from Denver via Atlanta), New York took former Ohio State center Nick Mangold.

Head coach Eric Mangini was making a point. He knew that without a solid offensive line, it wouldn’t matter who he lined up under center.

Ferguson and Mangold went on to have productive rookie seasons, but the entire line under performed in 2007 and the Jets sunk to a 4-12 record. Quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens struggled, while running back Thomas Jones (acquired from Chicago during the offseason) was largely ineffective.

This offseason, the Jets doled out $40 million, with $21 million in guaranteed money to sign former Steelers’ guard Alan Faneca. New York hopes the former Pro Bowler Faneca will get the underachieving Ferguson and Mangold to play to their high expectations again in 2008.

Also this offseason, the Jets signed free agent right tackle Damien Woody, formerly of the Lions. While Woody was largely a bust in Detroit because of weight issues and is coming off shoulder surgery, he’s a small upgrade over 2007 starter Anthony Clement. Joining Woody on the right side is Brandon Moore, who returns as the Jets’ starting right guard.

If the Jets can get better production out of their offensive line in 2008, it’s hard to imagine a productive runner like Jones will struggle again like he did last season. And it’s no secret that if Favre has time, he’ll pick a defense apart with his incredible release and accuracy. Despite their poor 2007 season, the Jets have enough talent to win this year. But the play of the offensive line is going to be the key in whether or not this team can battle for a Wild Card spot in a tough AFC.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

49ers’ defense gets boost with addition of LB Takeo Spikes

The San Francisco 49ers signed inside linebacker Takeo Spikes, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. To make room for the signing, the team also released LB Brandon Moore.

Spikes, 31, and the 49ers had been talking since March after he was released by Philadelphia after just one season. He was due to make $5 million in 2008, and the Eagles felt they could use that money elsewhere since they liked their younger linebackers.

Spikes started 14 games for them last year before tearing a rotator cuff and having surgery. The 49ers’ doctors had to check out his shoulder Sunday before the club would agree to a deal. When Spikes visited their headquarters in March, he was rehabbing the shoulder and couldn’t pass a physical.

Spikes has lost a step over the years, but playing inside linebacker in Mike Nolan’s 3-4 defense doesn’t require sideline-to-sideline ability. This move solidifies the run defense a bit, but the question remains if whether or not the 49ers will get enough of a pass rush from their front seven. Either way, Spikes is a terrific leader and it brings a lot of experience to San Fran’s defense.

Even though it didn’t transfer to wins, the 49ers had a very productive offseason in 2007 and did so again this year. With the additions of Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, Tully Banta-Cain, Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes and DROY Patrick Willis (photo), San Fran has vastly improved its defense over the past two offseasons.

Related Posts