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Jets Offensive Line Needs to Assert Itself

Giants defense provides good test for struggling Jets blockers

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Aug 23, 2012  |  Updated 1:01 PM EDT
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Dramatic Photos: London 2012

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Everything starts up front for the Jets.

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For all the time spent discussing Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, you'd think the Jets offense was studded with stars in search of a better quarterback.

This is not the case. They are thin at receiver and running back, although weaknesses at each of those positions won't matter much if the Jets don't do a better job on the offensive line than they did in the first preseason game.

It wasn't an extended appearance by the starting offense against the Bengals, but it was a bad one. Sanchez was sacked twice, forced out of the pocket a few more times and there weren't many holes for Shonn Greene to utilize in his efforts to move the ball down the field.

Had that been an isolated event, you could write it off as a team rounding itself into shape. After last year, though, the Jets can't be so sanguine. All of the problems were in evidence as the Jets slumped to 8-8 and they made no changes to the unit over the offseason.

Wayne Hunter is still the right tackle, which boggles the mind given how obviously overmatched he was by the job last season. He's getting token competition from Austin Howard, but the Jets' attempt to trade for the always injured Jeff Otah shows the level of desperation the team has for a real second option at the position this season that isn't Howard.

Matt Slauson is still the left guard, although the Jets claimed he was competing with megabust Vladimir Ducasse until Slauson agreed to a pay cut that guaranteed him the job. Slauson isn't as bad as Hunter, but it was a spot the Jets could have tried to upgrade but chose to leave alone.

There are fewer issues with left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, although he needs to be the player he was in the second half of last season as opposed to the one who stumbled out of the gate. Center Nick Mangold and right guard Brandon Moore are the least troubling members of the unit, especially if both of them are healthier this year than they were in 2011.

The Giants should provide the group with a good test on Saturday night, since they can generate so much activity on their defensive line. That activity helped sink the Jets' still-puzzling approach of passing every single down in their Christmas Eve game last year because the Jets couldn't block anyone.

If Rex Ryan's promise to return to the Ground and Pound offensive scheme of his first two years is to come true, the line is going to have to be much, much better than it has been over the last 17 games. An inability to run the ball consistently will put more pressure on Sanchez, something that is less than ideal given the skill position players currently on the roster.

There's not much grey area, then. If the Jets offensive line doesn't step up, the Jets aren't going to wind up anywhere better than they did last season.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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