2011 NFL Preseason: Will the Offensive Line Be the New York Jets Achilles Heel?

Joseph KuchieCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Center Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets readies the ball for the snap against Dan Muir #90 of the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jets won 17-16.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With center Nick Mangold being the latest Jets offensive linemen to miss practice, there is a growing concern about whether or not the unit will hold up during the regular season.

According to the New York Post, Mangold laid motionless for more then five minutes following a goal-line drill yesterday before walking off on his own power. He has been listed day-to-day on the Jets injury report with a stinger in his neck and back area.

Mangold joins right guard Brandon Moore as the second linemen to miss time leading up to their first preseason game against the Houston Texans. Moore has missed the team's entire training camp following the surgery that he had after the 2010 season. But according to ESPN New York, he has been taken off the PUP list and could return to practice within the next week.

Even with Moore returning to action sometime during the preseason, he still hasn't had any time to practice with the team and will be dealing with a recently repaired hip. He will also have to build a chemistry with new starting right tackle Wayne Hunter, who will be replacing the recently retired Damien Woody on the offensive line.

Hunter, who recently signed a four-year contract extension, has been a backup for a majority of his eight-year career. This will be the first time he is a starter going into the preseason, and has a lot to prove if he wants to keep his job. According to Jets Insider, Hunter is being considered the new Matt Slauson, who had to earn his keep on the offensive line after replacing Alan Faneca at left guard.

Wayne Hunter has a lot to prove in his first year as a starter
Wayne Hunter has a lot to prove in his first year as a starterChris Chambers/Getty Images

Hunter was able to beat out Vladimir Ducasse for the starting job, but many sources believed that Ducasse was the better yet inexperienced tackle. If Hunter is unable to perform up to the Jets standards, the second-year Ducasse could finally get the starting job that he lost to Slauson last season.

Regardless of the starter, this isn't going to be the "solid" offensive line that the Jets have had the past few years. The veteran names like Damien Woody and Alan Faneca have been replaced by Matt Slauson and Wayne Hunter, and their inexperience as starters will certainly cost the team going into the regular season.

With Moore and Mangold dealing with injury, the complete offensive line of Ferguson, Slauson, Mangold, Moore and Hunter will not practice together until the second week of the preseason. Granted, the five played together toward the end of last season when Woody went down with an injury, but the lockout cost them practice time and Hunter was playing as a fill-in, not a full-time starter.

The Jets will open up the regular season against the Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Ravens and Patriots—all of whom have one or two pass rushers that could make Mark Sanchez's day a bit rough. The Raiders, Ravens and Patriots combined for 110 sacks last season, and the Raiders were second in the AFC behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cowboys racked up 35 sacks last season, and the Jaguars revamped their pass rush by adding Matt Roth to their defense.

The Jets are going to need a healthy offensive line that has had time to practice together, but injuries are currently preventing that from happening. Fans will not know how the line will hold up until Mangold and Moore return to practice, and until then, the second team will be working with Hunter, Slauson and Ferguson.

With all the moves the Jets made this offseason, none of them will be any good unless the offensive line can hold up. Sanchez will need time to find his new weapons, and that won't be possible until Mangold and Moore are back to 100 percent.