It has been a dramatic turnaround for the Jets’ offensive line from this time last year — when they were one of the league’s most underwhelming units — into one of the best this season.
In 2011, the line was the center of every Jets fan’s angst. It was blamed for the average performance of the running game and the limited development of Mark Sanchez.
Currently, the line is ranked fourth-best in the league in sacks allowed and Sanchez has been hit just nine times.
“We’re just communicating well; really, that’s all it is. We’re winning our one-on-one match-ups,” left guard Matt Slauson said. “It isn’t just us — obviously, we’re doing well with our assignments and match-ups, but the receivers are getting open faster. Mark is getting rid of the ball faster. That helps. I think you’re seeing the maturity of Mark, the maturity of the offense.”
Whatever the reason, the line is playing better and the rest of the league is on alert.
“They have some stout guys up front and they run the ball well,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Shonn Greene and [Bilal] Powell are two good running backs; it’s going to be a good match out there.”
Several of the players point to the scout team giving the offensive line an accurate look ahead of each game. In fact, one player said that since the scout team is either keyed in on the play or has a sense of the playbook and knows what’s coming, it is “in many ways tougher to go up against them than it is to play on Sundays in an actual game.”
“Last year was the same way, everyone was getting on us about the running game and then all of a sudden in the middle of the season, we started rolling,” Slauson said. “I’m confident we’re going to get there and it is always a point of emphasis. It’s not like we’re just saying or just relying on it, expecting it is going to happen. We know we need to make it happen.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.