When the Jets offense takes the field on Sunday against San Francisco, they will be without two regular starters. LG Pete Kendall and RG Brandon Moore both sustained injuries in the team’s 16-14 win over Buffalo on Sunday and are out this week.
Kendall broke the big toe on his right foot while Moore suffered a hamstring injury.
Replacing Kendall and Moore will be Brent Smith and Jonathan Goodwin. Smith will be LG and Goodwin will fill in for Moore at RG.
The offensive line was definitely one of the question marks coming into the season. They had two new starters in Kendall and Moore but the o-line gelled and they are one of the reasons the Jets are 4-0.
Behind the blocking of the offensive line this season, RB Curtis Martin has gained 502 yards. They have done a nice job protecting QB Chad Pennington, allowing only nine sacks, and allowing enough time for Pennington to find his receivers.
Pennington isn’t worried about Smith and Goodwin.
“We feel confident in those players but at the same time it is a test,” Pennington said. “It is a challenge for us and it is also an opportunity. You can either look at it as a negative or a positive and I think it is a positive and it tests us as an offense and it tests us as a team.”
Jets C Kevin Mawae feels the injuries aren’t a setback to the progress the line has made.
“You can’t dwell on the injuries,” Mawae said. “You can’t dwell on who is going to be playing, who is not going to be playing. You have to just worry about doing the right job and getting it done, regardless of who is in there.”
Smith is no stranger to starting as he was the Jets starter at RG for all 16 games last year. He was scheduled to be the Jets starter at LG this season before the team signed Kendall in August. Smith then battled Moore for the RG spot before losing the competition. Smith was released shortly before the regular season began so the team would not have to pay him his full salary. The Jets then re-signed him the following week. Smith talked about his reaction when the team released him.
“It was disappointing,” Smith said. “It was not so much a shock since I did not have a good camp.”
Mawae was impressed by Smith admitting he did not play well in camp.
“It takes a stand-up guy to do that,” Mawae said. “You have to be your own harshest critic, regardless of what everybody else says. You have to take a good, hard look at yourself. I think that is how good players become great players and average players become good players because you are harder on yourself than anyone else is. I am sure it has made him a better player and it is going to help our team out.”
Goodwin was a fifth round draft pick of the Jets in 2002. He has played in 28 games in his first two seasons with the Jets as a reserve and on special teams. Last year, Goodwin saw most of his playing time in guard rotation with Smith. Goodwin is versatile as he can play either guard spot and is the backup to Mawae at center. When Mawae broke his right hand against San Diego, Goodwin came in and did a nice job. Goodwin also came in for Moore last week after Moore was injured. Goodwin talked about what he has done to improve this year.
“I’m stronger this year,” Goodwin said. “I improved my technique and I make sure I play harder and with more intensity.”
Goodwin talked about his goals for this week as he will be making his first career start.
“I definitely want to go out and play well,” Goodwin said. “I’ll go out and do the same thing all year-be consistent and accountable.”
Mawae has full confidence in Smith and Goodwin.
“Without a doubt,” Mawae said. “If we didn’t have confidence in them they wouldn’t be here on the team. They wouldn’t be in this rotation. We expect them to step up and play a good game.”
It seems the injury bug has bitten the Jets o-line particularly hard as LT Jason Fabini has played through injuries.
RT Kareem McKenzie is the only starting o-lineman who has remained healthy this year but he has allowed three sacks. Earlier this week, Edwards said the sacks happened because of McKenzie’s technique.
Edwards said the team won’t change their game plan because of Kendall and Moore being out.
“We're going to do what we do,” the HC said. “We're going to play football. We're going to line up with the guys we have. That's why you have backup players. They're not backups when they walk in the huddle. If they go in the huddle-11 guys will- they're a starter.”
Smith and Goodwin need to perform at a high level this weekend and if they do, Martin will keep gaining yards, Pennington will keep finding his receivers, and the Jets will remain undefeated.