JetsInsider Thursday Team Report

Running game’s revival centers around the boys up front

The Wildcat offense might be here to stay in the NFL,  but there will never be a substitute for a power running game.

The offensive line has engineered back-to-back 300 yard rushing games in the last two weeks.

The offensive line has engineered back-to-back 300 yard rushing games in the last two weeks.

The Jets have proven as much over the past two Sundays, registering back-to-back 300 yard games in each contest.  With the running game back in full swing, it’s time to give credit where it’s due – to the supremely talented offensive line.

“I think that’s a great group of players,” head coach Rex Ryan said.  “Individually, they all have outstanding talents, but it’s the way they play together, the way they combination block and the communication they have.  I think it starts with Bill Callahan.  He’s a tremendous offensive line coach and coach in general.  I think they are all smart, tough guys, durable, dependable.  This is an outstanding group.”

Part of being a good head coach is surrounding yourself with great assistant coaches, guys whose strong points are your weaker ones.  Ryan has done an outstanding job of knowing his limitations as a coach – he’s a defensive guy, which is why he still calls the plays on defense as the head man of the Jets.  But the offensive line is probably not something he’s a master of, so he sought to get the best man he could to fill the job.

Enter Callahan, who seems to be the right man for the job.  But a good coach, however, is only as good as his players.  And Callahan has some extremely talented guys to work with on the offensive front.

There’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the former fourth overall pick in the draft out of Virginia.  Taken in that same first round was center Nick Mangold.  Then you have high-priced free agent guard Alen Faneca.  Toss Damien Woody into the mix, and you’ve got a load of talent, and an even bigger amount of money, in one area of the ball club.  For all the money the team has committed to this unit, they’d better be performing at this level.

So while the credit being heaped on the guys in the offensive trenches, this shouldn’t be so unexpected.  This is a group that can be as dominant as any line in the game, and it will become increasingly important for them to perform as the weather in the NFC East begins to worsen.

With rookie signal caller Mark Sanchez having never thrown through the swirling winter winds in Giants Stadium, he will need to rely on his running game to put the team in positions to score points and come away with victories.  In order for that to happen, his star-studded offensive line needs to remain healthy – and productive – for this team to have a chance to compete for a playoff spot.

UPDATING THE INJURY FRONT

There was an extremely welcomed sight at Jets practice today – the stationary bikes reserved for players not participating in practice were completely empty, for the first time in what seems like forever.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was limited in practice, but as has been reported, he will most likely play Sunday against Miami.  Cornerback Lito Sheppard was also limited in practice today, but Coach Ryan is currently not optimistic he will play.  All other limited participants are expected to be ready to go for Sunday, leaving the Jets with a surprisingly full active roster outside the losses of Kris Jenkins, Leon Washington, and Sheppard.

REPLACING LEON

It’s impossible to fill the void of a player who does as much for your team as Leon Washington does for the Jets.  But the show must go on, so Justin Miller will be returning kicks Sunday for Gang Green.  Miller was the Jets’ return man before Washington put a stranglehold on the job, so there is some familiarity there, and Miller’s experience makes him a more than formidable replacement.

“We want to give a total chance and a complete opportunity,” special teams coach Mike Westoff said.  “In some ways his style, because of his speed is a little bit more adept to running with a two-man (wedge) rather than a three-man (wedge) so I think there might be a little bit of advantage there.  He looks good at practice so we want to give him every opportunity and then we’ll go from there.  I have a great comfort level with him.”

It will be interesting to see how well Miller performs, and whether he and running back Shonn Greene can replace the production Washington afforded the Jets.  The first test is just four days away.

The team returns to the practice field for a workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

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