Tackle Adrian Jones in his first year as a starter was one bright spot on a beat up Jets offensive line in 2005. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
During training camp, most prognosticators viewed Adrian Jones as the Jets weakest link in 2005 on a veteran offensive line. He was stepping in at right tackle for Kareem McKenzie, who swapped locker rooms at the Meadowlands and put on a Giants uniform.
Questions loomed about Jones, who was a tight end until his senior year at Kansas, where he was converted and played left tackle. This would be his first full season at right tackle.
And then the season started. Injuries ransacked the Jets offensive line. Left tackle Jason Fabini injured his knee in the Jets third game and moved to the right side, swapping with Jones. Eventually, Fabini, like center Kevin Mawae, was placed on injured reserve.
An experienced offensive line became elderly in a hurry. Four different combinations started for the Jets last season at an area that needed the most chemistry.
Since Week 4, however, Jones started 10 consecutive games at left tackle. The most difficult transition between the two sides was often Jones got left on an island. He rarely had tight end help and sometimes had a running back chip an end, but that’s it. In a lost season, Jones was been one of the Jets most dependable players. Former Jets Coach Herman Edwards said he noticed a swagger in Jones’ step since training camp.
“Confidence,” Edwards said is Jones’ biggest improvement. “The confidence he has in playing the position. He’s doing good. Everyone was concerned about him playing right tackle. He’s been great. He’s getting better every week.”
With Edwards now gone to Kansas City and a new coaching staff in place, the Jets offensive line has been blown up with the release of Mawae and Fabini. New head coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum have taken steps to rebuild by adding younger, bigger center Trey Teague formerly of Buffalo and veteran tackle Anthony Clement. There is also the strong possibility that Virginia’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the top tackle prospect in this year draft may soon be a Jet. However, despite what moves the team makes, Jones feels he has shown enough to keep his job next season. Jones shared his thoughts with Jets Insider staff writer James J. Parziale about a bevy of topics.
JI: So this was supposed to be your first season at right tackle?
JI: Then you were moved to left. How has that adjustment been for you?
Jones: “It’s cool with me. Playing left or right, I’m used to playing both sides [now]. As far as switching positions, it hasn’t been a big adjustment for me.”
JI: How tough was it last season with all the injuries on the offensive line?
Jones: “It was more or less frustrating. We had a lot of injuries at key positions but we were still able to bounce back and keep going.”
JI: Coach Edwards said the biggest improvement he’s seen from you since training camp is confidence. Agreed?
Jones: “I think more or less at the beginning of the year I didn’t have too much game experience. But the more games I played the more experience I got and the more confident I got.”
JI: With all the shuffling, how was the chemistry been on the line?
Jones: “It was pretty good. Even though we were shuffled around a lot everyone knows how the other guys play. It was pretty solid.”
JI: You guys have took a lot of heat for not protecting the quarterbacks. How fair or unfair is that criticism given all the injuries and movement you guys had last year?
Jones: “Whenever you are not protecting the quarterback and letting up sacks and the not protecting the running backs – letting them get hit in the backfield – you have to stand up as offensive lineman and say, Yeah, it’s on us to get it done.”
JI: What is the biggest difference for you between left and right tackle?
Jones: “The mental aspect other than footwork and technique, but other than that you pretty much go out there against the same guys. You just got to go out there and block them.”
JI: What’s more difficult for you: a stunt or a blitz?
Jones: “The hardest thing is a stunt. Usually, you can see a blitz coming. As far as with stunts there are certain things that might tip it off but it’s not 100 percent [recognizable] more the way blitzes are.”
JI: What are the greatest lessons you learned last season?
Jones: “Just to go out there everyday and try and get better. Just go out there and play everyday like it’s my last; especially with all the injuries [to other guys] to go out there and give it your all.”
JI: What was the toughest defensive line you faced last year?
Jones: “The toughest defensive line as a whole hard to say, but I’d probably say the toughest end I played when I was at right end was [Giants DE] Michael Strahan during the preseason.”
JI: Did you play against Carolina’s Julius Peppers in the ninth game last year because you played on both sides that game?
Jones: “Well, the one time he did line up on me he dropped [into coverage]. So I didn’t really go up against him.”
JI: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Jones: “(laughs) It didn’t really matter to me because he’s a great defender and a great pass rusher. I would’ve liked to go up against him.”
JI: What’s the difference between Curtis Martin and Cedric Houston in terms of running styles?
Jones: “Cedric is more of a go-get-it runner while Curtis is more of a reader. He waits for holes to open up. They’re both still good backs.”
JI: What is your favorite time on the field? What’s the most fun for you?
Jones: “Besides touchdown plays, whenever we can keep the ball moving by passing or running or whatnot. That’s probably the best time.”
JI: What do you think the team needs to do to bounce back in 2006?
Jones: “Just go back and get healthy. Get more used to the offense and get more used to the defense and pretty much just go out there and play hard.”