End of the Road for Jets’ Ferguson

By Glenn Naughton

There may not have ever been a more fitting name for such a stellar performer for the New York Jets, or any other team for that matter, than left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Many fans and teammates referred to the ten-year veteran simply as “Brick”, and for a full decade, he was just that.  A key piece of the offensive foundation, and invaluable member of some of the best teams the franchise has ever fielded.  Ten seasons, yes, a full decade, without missing a single offensive snap due to injury.  A testament to his desire, dedication and durability.

Ferguson was chosen by former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum with the 4th overall selection in the 2006 draft out of the University of Virginia.  As is the case with many first round draft choices, Ferguson was viewed as a player who would bring stability to his position for the next decade.  Unlike many of those picks however, Ferguson lived up to the billing.

A soft-spoken giant of a man at 6′ 5” and 300 (give or take a few) pounds, Ferguson was a starter for Gang Green from the moment he stepped in the league, and he never looked back.

In 1996, the New York City native would get an early taste of success in the NFL, playing a pivotal role in protecting quarterback Chad Pennington’s blind side en route to a 10-6 season before a  37-16 blowout loss to the New England Patriots in the first round of the playoffs.

It was the one and only time Ferguson would see the post-season under Head Coach Eric Mangini as the team never saw double-digit wins again during his time at the helm, and a pair of lost seasons resulted in a 13-19 record, and Mangini’s eventual ouster.

Then came the 2009 and 2010 seasons, two seasons in which Ferguson would enjoy some of the highest highs the Jets and their fans have experienced since the days of Joe Namath.

Two deep playoff runs in consecutive seasons in which the team’s offensive line was probably never more important than it was at that time.  With struggling rookie Mark Sanchez under center, the Jets were forced to go in to almost every contest with their opponent fully aware of the fact that Gang Green was going to run the ball every time they had the opportunity.  They had to.  There was no other choice.

With Sanchez at quarterback, the Jets offense accumulated fewer than 175 yards passing in 12 different contests, and came in at fewer than 100 yards through the air five of those times (including playoffs).  Even in treating Sanchez with kid gloves, and doing all they could to protect him from himself, the rookie still managed to throw 20 interceptions to go along with a paltry 12 touchdowns.

Ferguson and his linemates had to pave the way for running back Thomas Jones on a regular basis, and they came through more often than not.

Teamed with left guard Alan Faneca, center and fellow-roookie Nick Mangold, right guard Brandon Moore and right tackle Damien Woody, Ferguson and company helped the Jets pound their way to 2,756 yards on the ground to go along with 21 touchdowns.  It was Ferguson and the rest of the offensive line that prevented poor quarterback play from sabotaging what was one of the top defenses in the NFL.

Sadly. for Ferguson and the Jets, the AFC Championship game was as far as they would be able to carry Sanchez, as he and the offense stood and watched helplessly while Peyton Manning and the Colts picked apart a Jets secondary ravaged by injuries, and the absence of a quarterback to stand any chance of winning a shootout with Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Final score, Colts 30 Jets 17.

The following season brought more of the same for Ferguson and company as a second consecutive season of finding ways to overcome shortcomings at the quarterback position led to yet another AFC championship game appearance.  This time, it was a slow start from both the offense and defense that doomed the Jets’ fate against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

A defense that had been so dominant leading up to that contest came out slow and this time they were the ones who needed to be bailed out early on.  Unfortunately, the proverbial nail in the coffin came on yet another Mark Sanchez turnover, this time when Ferguson was beaten badly off the snap, leading to a strip-sack and scoop for a defensive touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half.  The Jets would battle back but the score put up by the defense on Ferguson’s whiff and Sanchez’s fumble made all the difference as the Steelers would hold on for a 24-19 victory.

Twice, Ferguson enjoyed trips to the AFC Championship game, but that was as far was he would go.
Twice, Ferguson enjoyed trips to the AFC Championship game, but that was as far was he would go.

As it turns out, we know now that that playoff game would be Ferguson’s last trip to the playoffs.  Five consecutive seasons with no post-season football would follow.  Four under former Head Coach Rex Ryan, and then a fifth, last season under Todd Bowles.  Despite a ten-win campaign, Ferguson and the Jets were eliminated in a week 17 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

By that point, Ferguson’s skills were declining and everybody knew it.  He was set to carry a price tag of over $14 million this season, but nobody believed he would ever see that payday, and a re-worked deal was on everybody’s mind.

A re-negotiation was seemingly put off by the organization until just this week when it was reported that the Jets had approached the aging Ferguson about a significant pay cut.

Then, today, Rich Cimini broke the story of Ferguson’s retirement.  He’ll leave the game at the young age of 32 with his health mostly in tact.  Clearly a priority for Ferguson who had voiced some concerns about his future health last season after watching the movie “concussion”.  A movie aimed at exposing the NFL’s desire to keep players and fans in the dark regarding the reality of the long-term impact of playing such a violent sport, taking repeated high-impact blows to the head.

At the time, you got the sense that Ferguson was sincere in his concerns and that he truly was weighing the value of carrying on to play in the NFL, or to walk away while he still could.

Today, we found out just how sincere he was, and what he was willing to give up to lead what will likely be a healthier, longer life from today onward.

Thanks, Brick.

 

Interview: NY Jets OL Austin Howard

A HowardHad an opportunity to ask New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard some questions about his rise to starting for the team along with where the offense is at heading into their next game against the Atlanta Falcons:

Q: You were on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before being signed by the Jets in 2011.  Now you are a second year starter.  How have you been able to elevate your game to achieve this success?

AH: Honestly I have been absolutely blessed to have these opportunities that have come across my way.  My first year I got to learn under a great offensive line coach with Juan Castillo and great players like Jason Peters.  In my second year, the same, with coach (John) Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.  It gave me a chance to set my body up and stay fresh for the time that I could actually get on the field, so far it’s worked out, so I’ve been very blessed. 

Q: Does going against the Jets young talented defensive line in every practice help improve the quality of your play?

AH: I feel we have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, Mo Wilkerson and (Sheldon) Richardson they come out and give us a great look, day-in and day-out they really help us ensure that we are going to be prepared for our next upcoming match. It is tough and very physical that is how Rex likes to run his defense. I believe that we get each other better throughout the year, you’ll see us stay elevated keep getting better every day because of the looks we get in practice.

Q: Could you tell us about some of the Jets veteran lineman who have aided in you development?

AH: Our entire offensive line from D’Brickashaw Ferguson, to last year Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore, to Nick Mangold, four guys who I couldn’t have asked to be on a better line, in a better situation.  They really taught me how to prepare throughout the week.  The time it takes and the effort it takes to the pre-practice stuff, the 110% it takes to go through practice, the post-practice work and than staying longer after meetings.  They really knew how to prepare and I could learn those things from them.  Also Willie Colon, who is another veteran guy who’s seen it all, he has been in the league for a long time now and he’s another one of those guys, he fits the mold of a Brandon Moore, a Nick Mangold and a D’Brickashaw Ferguson.  Another guy who knows how to work and the same time I feel like he is one of those leaders we all lean on and we are getting better every week.  

Q: Do you have to change your approach during a game with Geno Smith a rookie starting at quarterback?

AH: When it comes to young players you have to realize who you have back there, who is leading the huddle and who is in there at quarterback but for us as a unit, as an offensive line, our focus and our goal typically they do not change too much.  We are focused on making those holes for the running backs and keeping the quarterback clean at all cost that means playing through the whistle, finishing down field and knowing your responsibilities and being really set on your preparation throughout the week.

Q: The offense had a big day against the Buffalo Bills but was disappointing a week later against the Tennessee Titans.  What are the things the coaches and players are working on to allow the offense to have more consistent week-to-week performances?

AH: A big focus for us right now is turnovers making sure that the ball stays in the offenses hands, making sure we take care of the ball.  On top of that making sure we take care of the penalty issues.  We have really had a ton of penalties that have hurt us and turnovers that have ended up with the opponent scoring points, so those have been our two major focuses.  We know we have a lot of talent on offense and if we can just zero in on our responsibilities figure out what we have to do and prepare like that throughout the week, I believe we can turn that around come game-day.

Q: You have a big game coming up Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, so what do you see as the keys for the offense to be successful against the Falcons defense?

AH: We are playing in a dome it is going to be very loud, so one of the biggest things we’re going to have to focus on is communication.  Communication in the huddle, communication on the line of scrimmage, talking through certain situations on the sidelines. Communication for away games typically is always huge, that is going to be a huge factor for us if we are going to be successful or not on any given play.  Also just the matter of handling the noise and going out there and being consistent with our techniques and sound with our defensive recognitions and our techniques as offensive lineman. We really zero in on our techniques and work on those things throughout the week and hopefully our preparation will show.

Jets Should Bring Back OL Moore

After a great week one victory the New York Jets head on the road to play their division rivals the New England Patriots Brandon Moorethis Thursday night.  There are certainly lots of positives to build on given the team’s latest win with the play of quarterback Geno Smith being front and center but one hole seems to remain.

The team currently has ten offensive linemen on the roster, which is a high number of spots used on this position, and starting left guard Vladimir Ducasse is a concern.  Since being drafted 61st in 2010 Ducasse has been a disappointment and was looking to be heading off the team early in training camp but surprisingly won the starting job later in preseason. 

Rookie 2013 third round draft pick lineman Brian Winters appears to be waiting in the wings to take over for Ducasse at some point but looks to need more time to develop.  Basically if Ducasse struggles there are not many viable options to replace him with right now.

Veteran guard Brandon Moore (33) played his entire ten-year career with the Jets including starting all 16 games last season.  It seemed like the Jets would move on from him with the signings of lineman Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman along with the drafting of Winters, but Peterman was released and Winters is not ready, so Moore returning would make sense. 

Moore actually agreed to reunite with former Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan, now the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, but decided not to go saying he did not want to leave his family.  So if Moore wants to play close to home and would accept the right deal why wouldn’t the Jets look to bring him back?

If Moore agreed to accept his “veterans minimum” salary $940,000, then under NFL salary rules he only counts $555,000 on the Jets salary cap (subtract any weeks missed) and his salary would not be guaranteed so he could be released if it didn’t work out.

It is unlikely Moore would be signed before this week’s game but could come in after and have a long stretch to work into the new offense.  From Moore’s perspective he could come in get paid and only have to play for the remainder of the season.  From the Jets perspective they get a veteran who knows the team and is a good insurance policy even if it takes a few weeks for him to get up to speed.

The Jets offense is still a work in progress but it all starts up front with the line giving a rookie quarterback protection and running the ball efficiently.  Signing Brandon Moore back to the Jets makes so much sense from both parties perspective there is no reason why it should not happen.   

Former Jets Offensive Lineman Brandon Moore Decides To Retire

Former New York Jet Brandon Moore has decided to retire in Green and White despite some reports that he was possibly signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Rex Ryan had nothing but good things to say about Moore and was clear when he said he “leaned on” Moore as a head coach and was a tremendous player.

In Moore’s 10-year career he started 142 games and was a key player in the success that the New York Jets had. Moore was also invited to the Pro Bowl in 2011.

In a recent interview with Brian Costello from the New York post Moore states, “I bleed green and white. I’m proud of that. I’m the biggest Jets fan there is and I’ll continue to be.”

 

 

 

The Offensive Line Speaks

With so much being made about the QB battle between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, we thought it was a good time to hear what the offensive line has to say.  Long time Jet Brandon Moore had an opportunity to sign with the Dallas Cowboys but he opted for retirement instead.  Nick Mangold describes what it was like playing with Brandon Moore, “Shoot, Brandon’s one of the great players that I’ve been fortunate to play with. We played together seven years which I think in today’s NFL is pretty impressive. He was always a professional. He came in, did his job to the best of his ability, made sure he helped younger guys like guys had helped him. It’s been tough not having him here.”

Nick also described where the offensive line is as a unit right now, “We’re coming along. I think it’s nice having the veterans there in Willie (Colon) and (Stephen) Peterman because even though we don’t have experience together, we have NFL experience and so instead of having to fully explain after something happens, you’re like ‘Hey, you saw that?’ ‘Yeah, I saw that, here’s how we can get better at it.’ I think that’s been a big help and I think personality-wise we’ve got a great set of young guys who are trying to learn, trying to get better and we have a bunch of old guys who are trying to help. I think that goes a long way when you’re talking about an offensive line gelling together.”

D’Brickashaw Ferguson talked to the media today as well.

On the mentality going against a strong defensive line in Detroit…
Well again, we have a strong defensive line here and we have to go against those guys on a regular basis. I think its great preparation for what we’re going to go through this season.

On what the team is looking to get out of Friday’s game…
Again, whenever we play another opponent, our goal is to make sure we’re executing and being effective. We’ve been playing against each other for a while now and our goal is to make sure that we can go out there and when we see another opponent, still have another high level of performance.

On if the team is where they want to be at this point of camp…
I think we’re just taking it day by day, step by step. We’re just looking to improve on a regular basis.

NY Jets Potential FA Signing Schwartz

The New York Jets offensive line might be going through a transition next season as both guards Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are set to become unrestricted free agents.  2010 round two draft pick Vladimir Ducasse was being groomed to replace Slauson playing part-time at left guard in 2012.  Moore will be 33 going into next season but has been a solid player who seems to have some productive years left.   With the Jets having tight finances they may not be able to retain Moore as he would be an attractive option for a team in need of a veteran lineman.

With center Nick Mangold, left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson under contract, and right tackle Austin Howard a restricted free agent, it appears the Jets need to focus on replacing right guard Moore.

Big name high priced free agent guards like Andy Levitre or Louis Vasquez will be out of reach for the cash strapped Jets so they’ll need to look at cheaper alternatives.  Former Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is set to become a free agent.

During 2010 Schwartz started all 16 games for the Panthers 5 at right tackle and 11 at right guard.  Unfortunately a hip injury sidelined him for the entire 2011 season.  Signed to a one year deal in 2012 with the Minnesota Vikings Schwartz was hit with another injury this time a sports hernia which cost him the early portion of the season.

Second year lineman Brandon Fusco emerged as the Vikings starting right guard since it took time for Schwartz to return from his injury but even though Fusco was starting Schwartz began to take on a larger role later in the year.  There were even games when Schwartz played more than the starter Fusco.

Just like the Jets did last season with safety LaRon Landry they could give Schwartz a reasonable one year “show me” deal.  Before coming to the Jets Landry’s past few seasons were marred with injury making him a risky signing but ended up playing in all 16 games while being named to the Pro-Bowl.

Schwartz will be 27 by the start of the 2013 season and can played tackle or guard on the right side of the line.  He’d be eager to show his 2010 form on a one year deal opening up the possibility for a future longer term contract as Landry is doing now.

There is always a risk in signing a player who had some injury problems but even obtaining health players isn’t risk free.  The Jets will be looking for “diamonds in the rough” hoping to get great production at a bargain price just like what happen with Landry.  While Schwartz does come with health concerns he has the ability and experience to be a very good addition at a position of need, so if the price is right the Jets would be wise to give Schwartz an opportunity this season.

Other Jets Related News From This Week

It’s getting closer to the holidays and most of us have been busy and for the most part all you’ve been hearing is how the Jets want to get rid of two of their quarterbacks, so in an effort to give you more news and keep the posts down to a minimum here’s some Jets news you might not of seen this week:

 

Injury Updates 11/29/12

Rex Ryan provided the following injury updates during this press conference today:

Opening Statement…

Guys that will not practice today, unless we find out otherwise, are Aaron Berry with a quad, Clyde Gates, concussion, LaRon Landry, heel, it’s just his normal routine. Guys that will be limited are Sione Po’uha with a low back, Bart Scott, toe, Jeremy Kerley, heel, hamstring, illness, Chaz Schilens, concussion and hip, Tim Tebow, ribs, Brandon Moore will be limited with his hips. Guys that will be full are Kenrick Ellis, knee, Joe McKnight, ankle, Bilal Powell, shoulder, Mark Sanchez, low back, Matt Slauson, knee, Jeff Cumberland, wrist, Calvin Pace, shoulder, Nick Mangold, thumb, and Dustin Keller, illness.

On if Schilens has a concussion and a hip injury…

Yeah, same thing as yesterday. Now, I understand that he never thought it was a concussion but I’ll stick with the trainers. They said concussion and his hip, so I’ll stay with them.

Jets Ruin Thanksgiving, Lose to Patriots 49-19

The Jets lost their entire Thanksgiving game to the Patriots in the most disastrous 52 seconds in the history of football. It sounds like something you’d read in The Onion, but it’s not. It really happened. Why the Jets always seem to be the victims of the most embarrassing football thing remains a mystery, but they really outdid themselves as far as anything most people have seen before. The Patriots barely even had to do anything, the Jets did it all to themselves.

As Manish Mehta tweeted during the game, “This is worse than looking directly into the sun.”

The complete meltdown began as Jet meltdowns usually do, with Mark Sanchez taking the Jets all the way down the field and then throwing an interception in the red zone. To be fair, Steve Gregory made a good play, coming all the way across to make the grab, but still, Sanchez turned the ball over. That happened with 5:55 left in the first quarter.

With 14:54 to go in the second quarter, Tom Brady threw a touchdown to Wes Welker on a complete defensive lapse, possibly due to some kind of miscommunication between Ellis Lankster and Kyle Wilson. Whatever it was, nobody covered Welker. 7-0 New England.

The Jets went down the field again and on fourth and half a yard, Shonn Greene fumbled the ball, which Steve Gregory recovered. Tom Brady then threw a screen pass to Shane Vareen, who just out ran the entire Jets defense for a touchdown.  With 9:56 left in the second, it’s 14-0 Patriots.

The Jets get the ball back and then on the second play of the drive, the play breaks down and Sanchez fumbles the ball running into Brandon Moore’s butt, which Steve Gregory (yes, again) recovered and ran back for a touchdown. 21-0 Patriots, with 9:43 left in the second.

On the ensuing kickoff, Joe McKnight fumbled the football, recovered by Julian Edelman and run back for a touchdown. 28-0 New England with 8:51 left in the second.

There were some other things to complain about, but the whole team completely melted down for one minute and got embarrassed in comical fashion in front of the whole country. There were almost no redeeming qualities for the Jets in this game. Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley looked good, but that was about it.

In the end, it was a 49-19 Thanksgiving embarrassment at home on national television that Woody Johnson may have specifically asked for.

Giving offensive coordinator Tony Sparano the benefit of the doubt when it comes to play calling, even with the miserable lack of talent on offense, has become more than difficult. In the second half – which everyone knew was a formality since it was 35-3 Patriots when the third quarter started – the Jets managed to at least look like a professional football organization and had nothing to lose, but Sparano never had Sanchez throw the ball deep when there was still a tiny chance to be competitive. On one fourth down, instead of having a QB sneak (like the Patriots did later when they were just piling it on), they handed the ball off and the Jets were stopped on the goal line in another “Greene up the middle” creative call. In fact, the Patriots seemed to be incredibly aware of the “Greene up the middle” play all night, and yet, it kept being run.

Confidence in Rex Ryan is also at all time low, for obvious reasons.

The Jets get embarrassed at least once a year, usually on national television, so the fact that this happened isn’t all that surprising.  It’s too bad they had to ruin Thanksgiving for their fans to do it. The fans that showed up to the game on a holiday deserved better, all fans deserve better.

With this season looking to be a complete disaster, the list of people to be fired should start with Mike Tannenbaum. As general manager, he’s responsible for the long term direction of the Jets and the complete lack of talent we’re watching is entirely on him.

The Jets next play host to the Arizona Cardinals on December 2. Kickoff is at 1:00.

Jets Lose Heartbreaker in New England, 29-26

The Jets lost an overtime heartbreaker to the New England Patriots 29-26 in Foxborough today, falling to 2-1 in division play and 3-4 overall.

This was a team loss like Jets fans can’t believe.  After the defense stopped the Patriots opening drive, and the Jets offense came out and scored a touchdown, the special teams allowed a 104 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. They didn’t even touch him.

The Jets offense sputtered, scoring field goals instead of touchdowns, but with the help of the special teams forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter, managed to take back the lead on a 43 yard field goal with about 1:30 left. But the defense, which had held the vaunted Patriots offense in check all game, was unable to keep them out of field goal range, and the game went into overtime.

Some of the play calling was questionable, and the clock management at the first half and then the end of regulation was appalling.

Mark Sanchez was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde today. He was 28 for 41 for 328 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Sanchez fumbled twice. Once near the end zone in the first half, where he did the right thing to kick out the ball out of the end zone. It was going to be a safety or a touchdown either way, Sanchez guaranteed the Patriots two points instead of seven there.  His second fumble was in OT to end the game. Finally, the interception meant for Stephen Hill was a hilariously bad pass, but the Patriots didn’t capitalize on it.

It was the game the Jets won in Miami earlier this year, but the flip side of it. Even with their mistakes, they played better than the Patriots and lost.

For fans that wanted the Jets to take an aggressive approach, they were probably quite annoyed with the Jets strategy at the end of the first half and at the end of regulation.  You don’t settle for field goals against New England, you go for the kill. The end of the first half was mostly terrible clock management that cost them the touchdown.

In the fourth, it was “play not to lose” play calling that’s never led the Jets to anything good that cost them again. With 2:00 left and the ball on New England’s end of the field, the Jets decided to run two guys up the middle on first and second down, and then the field goal was made even more difficult when Sanchez got sacked on third down. They didn’t even try to get the first down, or a touchdown. They didn’t kill enough clock and they only got three points. It was infuriating.

Then, the play calling was far too aggressive earlier in the third quarter, when instead of running Shonn Greene (or Tim Tebow) into the end zone on 3rd & 1, they decide to throw the ball AND use the world’s most predictable play – a slant route to Chaz Schilens. The Jets ended up with a field goal.

The defense played too conservatively at the end of regulation as well, allowing the Patriots into field goal range and forcing overtime.

Finally, as if the Jets trampling all over their own chances wasn’t enough, they had plenty of help losing from the referees. I’m not usually one for blaming the refs, but some of the calls that went against the Jets were atrocious. Aaron Hernandez’s fumble on the goal line was one example of “home field advantage.” The call really could have gone either way, and elsewhere probably stands for lack of conclusive evidence. There was a phantom holding call on Brandon Moore, which wiped out a huge Jets 15 yard gain. And finally, there was the pass interference called on Kyle Wilson in overtime. It wasn’t called by the ref who was five yards away, it was called late by a ref at least 25 yards down the field. A huge third down stop for the Jets defense became a new set of downs for New England, and it led directly to the game winning field goal.

There were some bright spots in this game, in spite of the fact it was a loss. Jeremy Kerley can officially be considered legitimate. In his new role as the number one receiving option, he’s arrived. He had seven receptions today for 120 yards, one of which was an acrobatic catch on a ball batted up that had no business being caught. Keller also seems to have fully returned, catching seven receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Nick Folk was perfect, making all four field goals he attempted, including two for 43 yards. And the defense held the Patriots very potent offense to two touchdowns. The third touchdown came on special teams, and beyond that it was all field goals and the safety for New England.

The Jets have the Dolphins at home next week. They barely beat Miami in Week 03 – didn’t deserve to win, even – but the Jets do look like a better team since then. Maybe the loss to the 49ers in Week 04 was rock bottom.  Next week is a division game the Jets must win to stay at .500 going into their bye week. Kickoff is at 1:00.