What's My Line? Clement Looks to Impress at Tackle
But when it comes to the New York Jets, conventional wisdom usually doesn't apply. Despite his size and track record in the NFL, tackle Anthony Clement has been largely overshadowed in training camp. With the coaching staff still looking for an official starting quarterback and running back, the status of the offensive line has been regulated to an afterthought outside of watching the progress of the two-first round draft picks.
Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold are the big stories on the line, though the production of the third off-season acquisition will be just as instrumental to the unit this season.
Clement joined the Jets in April as an unrestricted free-agent after spending one year with the 49ers. Entering his 9th season, he joins guard Pete Kendall as a veteran that can help ease the acclimation process of the two youngsters to the league.
With the team's third pre-season game against the Giants just three days away, head coach Eric Mangini gave Clement practice reps at right tackle with the first team during afternoon practice Tuesday.
"I'm just trying to earn a spot on the team and compete, just like always," said Clement, who was originally a second-round draft pick by Arizona in 1998. "I'm just there working hard, trying to do what I can do."
The line has indeed been put to work, as the Jets have an open competition at running back to replace Curtis Martin. An impressive victory over the Redskins in the last exhibition game showed the team could move the ball on the ground, though Clement said nobody was completely satisfied with the effort.
"We still have a lot of mistakes and things we need to correct, but all-in-all we played pretty good," he said. "We got the win, and I think that's all that really matters."
Though he has played mostly on the right side, the fickle world of a lineman requires flexibility to play multiple positions. With such thin depth, the 30-year-old has been around long enough to know how fast he can be switched to a different spot.
"That's always key, that you can rotate guys in," Clement said. "In case one guy gets hurt, you got to have someone that's ready and fill in at times."
Playing with Clement is nothing new for Kendall, as the two were teammates for three seasons (2001-2003) in Arizona. Both were eventually cut by the Cardinals, but found themselves in Hempstead on the same practice field looking to fit in on a team that features a new head coach and general manager.
"He's a physical guy," Kendall said about his fellow veteran. "Anthony's is what I think of as a right tackle in the NFL: a tough, strong [and] physical guy."
With the weekend trade for Kevan Barlow, the protection up front will have to adjust to working with a new running back. Coming over from San Francisco, Barlow has a track record of putting up 1,000 yard seasons when healthy. He also has a history of feuding with teammates and coaches, such as his noted confrontations with fullback Fred Beasley.
Clement played with Barlow on the 49ers last season, but in a revealing moment, the former Louisiana-Lafayette star was conspicuously tight-lipped about his ex-teammate.
"I have no comment about Barlow," he said when asked about playing with the tailback.
The Lafayette native was more forthcoming on his assessment of how the line is progressing with training camp nearing conclusion.
"I think offensive lineman take time to jell," he said. "We try to rush it and try to work together and meet together as often as we can, but it still takes time. We're all pretty much compatible. No matter who's in there, we can all pretty much get it done."
Mangini was more measured in his opinion of Clement, preferring to discuss his idea of progress and success in his offensive line.
"What I think all that comes down to is leverage and angles," Mangini said. "The low man wins. It doesn't matter how much you weigh, it comes down to the physics of it. Where is your pad level, where is your hand placement, and usually you can't fight it. If you don't have the proper technique, it doesn't matter how much you weigh, how powerful you are or vice versa."
Though Barlow should see his share of carries against the Giants, nobody on the Jets said there will be many changes up front when it comes to blocking schemes.
"You'd probably have to check with the new back, but we [the line] ain't changing," Kendall said. "The only thing that could change is possibly with the offensive coordinator and the play-calling."
In the middle of a string of serious questions, Clement smiled when asked if his uniform number 68 was a reference to his height.
"No, not at all," he said with a laugh, adding that he wore 65 and 67 as well.