The New York Jets offensive line in 2016 consisted of a slew of injuries, many player-combinations, and sub-par play overall. Going into Week One the lineup was Ryan Clady at left tackle, James Carpenter at left guard, Nick Mangold at center, Brian Winters at right guard, and Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale rotating at right tackle in place of Breno Giacomini. By Week 17 Qvale and Ijalana were still playing and the only other one from this list that was still playing was Carpenter.
New York Jets Offensive Line End of Season Review
Clady came in as the four-time Pro Bowl replacement for three-time Pro Bowler D’brickashaw Ferguson. Not only was Clady named to four Pro Bowls, but he was also a two-time First-Team All-Pro. The talent was always there, but the health was not. After only playing two games for the Denver Broncos in 2013 due to a foot ailment, he missed the whole season in 2015 due to an ACL tear in late May.
The Jets had similar luck with Clady. He ended up playing in nine games before being placed on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury after the Jets 27-23 loss to the Dolphins in Week Nine. While he played in more games than he played in 2013 and 2015 seasons combined, he had some of the worst production in his career.
Carpenter was the Jets ironman for another season. While his fellow offensive linemen starters hit the injured reserve during the season, he started from Week One all the way to Week 17.
Since signing a four-year, $19.1 million contract in 2015, he has started all 32 games. Not only has he played healthy, but he has produced well. Considering his competition he was the Jets most valuable offensive linemen of 2016.
Dakota Dozier is another guard on the Jets that played in 13 games in 2016. There’s no real notable qualities aside from the fact that he was depth in 2016 and may continue to be used as depth in 2017 behind Carpenter and Winters.
Winters was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He didn’t show much at all in his first two years, but after switching from left guard to right guard and becoming a starter after Willie Colon went down with an injury in 2015, he has shown vast improvement. 2016 was certainly his best season by far to the point that he was primed to be a top guard on the free agent market. That is of course, before the Jets signed him to a four-year, $29 million contract in the middle of January.
Both guard positions were solid for the Jets in 2016. The only real knock on Winters was the fact that he succumbed to injury yet again. In Week 15 he tore his rotator cuff which required surgery. Therefore he missed the last two games of the season in addition to missing Week Five to a concussion. He also missed 10 games in 2014 due to a knee injury.
However, with many questions looming at offensive line for 2017, the Jets had no choice but to lock up their right guard.
The most familiar name on this offensive line had perhaps the worst season of his career in 2016. While his production at center wasn’t bad, the fact that he missed double the amount of games that he has missed in his entire career was problematic.
Mangold started the first seven games of the season before injuring his foot in Week Seven. He was a little too eager to get back onto the field and thus re-aggravated the injury before the Jets tilt with the Miami Dolphins in Week Nine. While Mangold came back in Week 12, he once again re-aggravated the injury and this time landed on the injured reserved.
With a cap hit of $9,075,000 in 2016, the Jets may very well move on from one of the best players to wear the green and white. Mangold has expressed his desire to stay and if he does, the chances of him playing for the $9,075,000 is very unlikely.
Johnson played in 15 of the 16 games, but his presence became known after Mangold went down. He did quite well in his time replacing Mangold. Although he is a restricted free agent, Johnson could be an option for the Jets if they do indeed move on from Mangold.
As mentioned before, Giacomini was supposed to be the starter at right tackle for the Jets in 2016. However, an offseason back injury caused him to miss the first seven games of the season. He only played in five games before being shut down as his back acted up again.
This gave an opportunity for Ijalana and Qvale to make a name for themselves. However, it was hard for either to stand out in preseason so Todd Bowles decided to rotate them for the first game of the season instead of choosing an actual starter. This rotation continued for the next three games of the season. Afterwards Qvale filled in for Winters at right guard when he was injured in Week Five. Ijalana also filled in for Clady at left tackle from Week 10 to the end of the season after he was place on the injured reserve.
Ijalana ended up playing for the whole season, but Qvale missed four games; three straight due to a neck injury and one due to a hamstring injury.
For the game that Qvale missed in Week 15 against the Dolphins, the Jets gave 2016 fifth-round pick Brandon Shell his first start of the season. Shell did a great job during his three starts at right tackle and could be the answer at that position for next season.
The players themselves weren’t as bad as the production from the line as a whole. The Jets had a decent running game as their running backs rushed for 1,802 yards which was the 12th best mark in the NFL. That was similar to 2015 when their running backs rushed for 1,868 yards which was the 10th best mark in the NFL.
In regards to protecting the quarterback, the offensive line struggled as Jets quarterbacks got hit 95 times which was 12th worst mark in the NFL and they got sacked 35 times which was tied for 15th worst. In 2015, Jets quarterbacks got hit 71 times (sixth best in the NFL) and sacked 22 times (second best in the NFL).
Looking to next year, Carpenter and Winters are good starters at guard, Shell looks like a promising option at right tackle, and Johnson would be a decent replacement to re-sign if Mangold was released. Clady most likely won’t be back on his current contract, but if he is willing to take a pay cut, the Jets could indeed bring him back. Giacomini is almost certainly a goner after injuries and poor play. Ijalana is a free agent and whether he is re-signed or not is a question mark right now since he isn’t a major piece.
The offensive line needs to be improved in 2017 through the draft and/or free agency. It is one of the most important tasks for General Manager Mike Maccagnan to address.