FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Despite the play of Darrelle Revis and Ryan Fitzpatrick dominating most post-game headlines, the Jets' offensive line is quietly becoming a formidable force to reckoned with. The Jets envisioned building a hard-nosed offensive front when it acquired left tackle Ryan Clady in the offseason, and their performance so far has exceeded expectations. What was once thought to be the weakest area of the team has become a catalyst just two weeks into the season.
The Jet offense currently ranks fourth in the NFL averaging 431 total yards per game. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has only been sacked twice this season, despite facing two pesky defenses in the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills. Led by center NIck Mangold, the offensive line has given Fitzpatrick all the time in the world to survey the field and find the plethora of options available with just a flick of his wrist. Thursday, Fitzpatrick showed what he can do when given time by posting 374 yards passing.
The five-man front has given running back Matt Forte spacious running lanes to maneuver through, which helped Forte score three rushing touchdowns against the Bills. The Jets have the fifth most rushing yards in the league and are averaging 137.5 yards per game. So far, Bilal Powell has had the longest run of the season at 16 yards, but it's those four, six and eight yards gains that tire out the defense over the course of a game. Give offensive coordinator Chan Gailey credit, he's been excellent at calling run plays and keeping the defense guessing, but it's been the offensive line that has been knocking defensive lineman back on their heels and continually executing in the trenches. Heck, even Fitz has 36 yards rushing on nine attempts.
What's been most impressive about this offensive line through two weeks, has been the lack of penalty's. On top of keeping Fitzpatrick clean, the offensive line has played mistake free for the most part. Out of 14 Jet penalty's, the offensive line has only accounted for four of those infractions. Veterans Clady and Brain Winters each have a holding penalty. While youngsters Brent Qvale and Wesley Johnson each have a false start penalty, how fitting.
There are still a few questions that need to be answered regarding injuries and playing time but for now the Jets have been able to weather the storm. Right tackle Breno Giacomini is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He'll be out four more weeks before coming off the PUP list, but when he does his health will still need to be evaluated. However, his replacements Ben Ijalana and Qvale have filled in nicely in what has been quite an experiment at right tackle. Rotating these two players between offensive possessions has worked to Gang Green’s advantage. Each has started in both games at the position, which is a great thing because both players are able to get reps without disrupting the chemistry of the whole unit. Ijalana and Qvale have improved no doubt, but head coach Todd Bowles would like to name a starter eventually.
"We’d like to eventually settle on one," said Bowles. "I don’t know if I will. They both have pluses and minuses, and they both play good and bad. I think it’s probably an edge if you keep both of them in there and both of them are healthy, and both of them are fighting at the same time. It probably keeps the defensive culture off balance trying to do certain things on that side of the football. But they’re both still fighting, they’re both playing well and with Breno (Giacomini) down, right now I kind of like seeing both of them in there. But eventually you hope one of them takes it."
Coach will stick with the rotation for now and he has no shame in doing so.
Starting guard James Carpenter suffered a calf injury against Buffalo. He left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Carpenter was replaced by Johnson who played well. There's still no timetable for Carpenter's return and it's unclear whether he'll play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
I know some of you reading this may think I'm in over my head bombarding you with stats in early September. Hear me out though, the offensive line has been the most consistent unit this season and if they continue to play well, a ripple effect will be sent throughout the offense, boosting everyone's performance. But over time we shall see of course.
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).