By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
In his first offseason with the team in 2015, new General Manager, Mike Maccagnan, proved that he has a keen eye on competition throughout the roster. This was especially the case with the offensive line, where the team carried 13 of the behemoths going into training camp last year.
On top of adding new starting LG James Carpenter in free agency and re-signing Willie Colon to compete for the RG position, Maccagnan invited former Giants 2011 4th round pick, James Brewer, to compete for the swing tackle spot. He also drafted Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison in the 5th round to groom at the OG position.
After a stiff competition in camp at the RG position, Willie Colon emerged victorious over Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi and Brent Qvale. After a one-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse, Aboushi, the Jets 5th round pick out of Virginia in 2013, was sent packing. James Brewer was handed his walking papers prior to the start of the season.
Winters went on to take over for Colon for the last nine games of the season, after Willie was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury that he initially suffered in Week 3 against the Eagles.
Wesley Johnson, an offensive tackle chosen by the Steelers in the 5th round of the 2014 draft, who was claimed off of waivers by the Jets in October of 2014, went on to win the job as the backup to Nick Mangold, starting one game in his place during the 2015 campaign.
Still needing a lot of work on his technique, Jarvis Harrison spent the majority of the season on the practice squad as the Jets continue to develop him. Depending on how far along the team thinks he is, Harrison could possibly compete with Winters for the starting RG position in 2016.
Selected by the Jets in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, Dakota Dozier has yet to truly impress the coaching staff enough to garner anything more than a look as a backup. After playing his college ball as an OT at Furman University, Dozier has seen a major jump in competition at the NFL level, as well as a learning curve from moving inside, and is still very much a work in progress. He has bounced around as a backup at the guard and center positions and time will tell if he is still wearing the green and white in 2016.
Ben Ijalana, the once rather promising former 2nd round pick of the Colts in 2011, has been with the Jets since September of 2013, but has never seemed to catch on after playing four games in his rookie season and suffering ACL tears in each of his first two years in the league with Indianapolis. He is currently an unrestricted free agent and it does not seem likely the Jets will be bringing him back.
The most interesting of the Jets holdovers at the lower end of the depth chart on the O-Line is Brent Qvale, who was an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska in 2014. He has definitely impressed the current Jets coaching staff, which is what earned him an opportunity to compete in the 2015 preseason battle at the RG position.
Versatile enough to line up at both G and T, he has certainly justified his spot on the roster, and he is best suited for the RG and RT positions, where he could give Winters and Giacomini a run for their money this offseason. That is if either or both of those guys are still on the team for the upcoming season.
Winters seems like a lock at this point, but Giacomini could save the team $5 million in cap space if cut after June 1st, and he has underperformed for the money he is being paid.
The search for developmental players on the Jets offensive line did not end with 2015 training camp, as Maccagnan added a couple of other big bodies to the mix last month. One of which is Sean Hickey, an undrafted free agent from Syracuse University, who was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints after the 2015 draft.
During his college career, Hickey started at both LT and RT, but despite the fact that he is listed at 6’6, 306 pounds, he projects as more of an OG on the pro level due to his short arms and needs a good amount of work to learn the nuances of playing inside.
The Jets also recently brought in Jesse Davis, who is a converted defensive lineman that moved to the OT position during his junior year at the University of Idaho. He spent some time with the Seahawks prior to the 2015 season and was signed by the Jets in January of this year.
Davis is another long-term project that is not quite ready to hit the field. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he will eventually develop into a solid offensive lineman, as has been seen in the past with Brandon Moore who played DT at the University of Illinois only to go on to start at RG with the Jets for eight years, but it will take time if that is ever to happen.
Although the Jets are set at the LT, LG and C position for 2016, there are certainly question marks on the right side of the line. The team could do worse than having Winters and Giacomini starting in 2016, but they could also do better, especially at the RT position.
There is also the fact that Ferguson and Mangold are both entering their 11th season in the league and the Jets need to at least set a plan in motion to find their eventual replacements.
It remains to be seen what the team does in free agency and the draft to solidify the offensive line, but you can be sure that Maccagnan is not finished adding names to the competition.
You can read my article from 2/17/16 on NYJetsNews.Com about D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the Jets succession plan at LT by clicking below: