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Making their 'O'-line less 'offensive'

LongIsland.com

The New York Jets had many troubled spots in their torturous 2005 season. When you go 4-12, that's not exactly splitting atoms making a statement such as that. But perhaps their most glaring weakness was ...

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The New York Jets had many troubled spots in their torturous 2005 season. When you go 4-12, that's not exactly splitting atoms making a statement such as that. But perhaps their most glaring weakness was the offensive line. The old saying is that football games are won and lost in 'the trenches.' By the final game, the Jets had back-ups and journeymen manning their offensive line. And even prior to that it was not a strong point. Is it any wonder that starting quarterback Chad Pennington and back-up Jay Fiedler both went down with season ending injuries in one game early in the season?

Poor third-stringer Brooks Bollinger was forced into duty and was running for his life all year. Vinny Testaverde came out of retirement and was banged around, too. Especially after All-Pro center Kevin Mawae (who was allowed to walk as a free agent after the season and eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans) went down for the season with an arm injury. Guard Pete Kendall had to be shifted to the middle and any familiarity was out the window. The unit was appropriately called the 'offensive' line in giving up 53 quarterback sacks.

When the new Jets hierarchy took over, overhauling the offensive line was on top of their agenda. Head Coach Eric Mangini (35) and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum (37) needed a strong draft to convince the media and the fans that their young ages did not mean that they weren't wise. The 'sexy' pick would have been trading up to the number two spot for USC star running back Reggie Bush or standing pat at number four and selecting his Trojan teammate, quarterback Matt Leinart. The smart (and most pressing need) pick was to grab Virginia's left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson. A four year starter, the 6'6" 313-pound Freeport, Long Island native was actually popular with the legions of Jet fans in attendance at Radio City Music Hall on April 29th. Not too easy to do in this town.

Following that up, the Jets picked again in the first round due to their return in the John Abraham trade. They selected Ohio State center Nick Mangold at number 29, another 300-pound offensive lineman. Both Mangold and Ferguson were projected to be the best available players at their respective positions in the 2006 NFL Draft. Not bad for a couple of first-time front office guys.

Mangini and Tannenbaum didn't settle for a good first round. They picked a quarterback after all, selecting Oregon's Kellen Clemens, in round two. The third round brought ILB Anthony Schlegal from Ohio State and S Eric Smith of Michigan State.

Day two of the draft wasn't as exciting, but these are the picks that can make a big difference on a team. In round four, the Jets selected Missouri quarterback Brad Smith, who will be converted to wide receiver. Other picks included RB Leon Washington (Florida State), TE/FB Jason Posciask (Wisconsin), CB Drew Coleman (Texas Christian) and DL Titus Adams (Nebraska).

And another 'coup' for Mangini and Tannenbaum was picking up a 2007 second round pick from the Washington Redskins in a trade on day one.

It is anyone's guess how draft picks turn out in the NFL. Ferguson may become the next Orlando Pace or Walter Jones, Pro-Bowlers for the Rams and Seahawks. Or perhaps he will be spoken in the same sentence as Tony Mandarich, who was a bust for the Packers and only became serviceable later in his career for the Colts. Only time will tell. A good bet that he will be on the Pro-Bowl roster more than not.