Jerry Fills Big Shoes With Start At Left Tackle

Posted Dec 19, 2011

No matter who was going to start at left tackle for the Miami Dolphins at Buffalo on Sunday he was going to have some big shoes to fill.

The fact it ended up being someone who had never lined up to the left of center in the pros, college or even high school made the task that much tougher. Second-year offensive lineman John Jerry was up to it nonetheless.

Jerry didn’t waiver one bit when his number was called to replace three-time Pro Bowler Jake Long in protecting the blind side of quarterback Matt Moore. At 6-foot-5 and 328 pounds the Ole Miss graduate is two inches shorter than Long but 11 pounds heavier and the 21 starts he made at right tackle in college gave him a little confidence.

“That’s my first time ever playing left tackle at any level,” Jerry said. “I just do whatever helps this team and that’s the main thing.”

Jerry is a man of few words who wears the same number as the former Rebel left tackle whose game he tries to emulate, Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens. He more than held his own in Miami’s 30-23 win over the Bills, keeping the pressure off of Moore in passing situations and opening holes for running back Reggie Bush to run through. Bush finished the game with a career-high 203 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

That quiet confidence of Jerry’s coupled with his physical attributes also gave interim Head Coach Todd Bowles enough confidence to start him over Nate Garner. After watching the game film on the flight home and this morning Bowles was able to form a more educated opinion over how Jerry performed.

“I thought he competed and the biggest thing about John is he’s physical and he likes to compete,” Bowles said. “We have to clean up some technical things about him in the pass game and that type of thing but he put his weight on some people, he moved some piles and that was a very positive thing.

“He has a lot of physical ability and a guy that big who can move that well, he can move some piles for you. When you get into those types of atmospheres with the weather like that and you’re trying to run the ball, a guy like that comes in handy.”

Long watched the game from the sidelines all bundled up as the snow flurries began to fall and he served as an extra coach to Jerry, giving him advice and helping him identify his keys before the snap. Jerry didn’t hesitate to seek out Long whenever he had a question.

There was a lot of pressure on Jerry and the entire offensive line to keep Moore’s uniform clean one week after he suffered a mild concussion in the loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. So Moore’s answers and demeanor after a game in which he was only sacked twice was all the testament Jerry and his linemates needed.

“I didn’t notice anything obviously and there was no pressure most of the game so those guys did a really good job up front,” said Moore, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. “Besides the first third down (of the game when he was sacked) I think there wasn’t must pressure so it makes it a lot easier to take those shots down the field.”

For Bush, the fact that he turned in a performance for the ages behind an offensive line that was missing its leader in Long made it even more special. He’s made no bones about the fact that he enjoys running behind this line and knowing that he is just 27 yards shy of 1,000 for the first time in his career, he wants to get it for them.

After the win, which Bush clinched with his 76-yard touchdown run with 5:41 left in the game to make the score 30-13, he gave the line and Jerry their due.

“It just says that guys stepped up when they had to,” Bush said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve been trying to preach and been working on all season is that when somebody goes down the next guy in line has to step up and fill that void. I felt like John Jerry did a great job today at playing left tackle and we didn’t really miss a bit. So kudos to John Jerry for the job he did. He really did a good job at protecting Matt and opening up holes today so he made it really easy for us.”

Bowles and the training staff will have to monitor Long’s progress during a short week to determine whether or not he can play at the New England Patriots on Christmas Eve. If he can’t, Jerry clearly earned the respect and trust of his teammates and coaches to warrant another start.

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