What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios for Joe Douglas‘ rebuilt Jets offensive line?
Can Joe Douglas’ overhauled offensive front quickly jump into the league’s upper echelon? Or, will the group’s first step forward be merely a small one?
To get an idea of what to expect from this unit in 2020, we are going to analyze each projected starter’s career numbers to pinpoint a realistic ceiling and floor for their performance as a quintet.
Tomorrow, we’ll take everything into account to nail down the unit’s most-likely production level. Stay tuned for that breakdown.
How good could the Jets offensive line be at its absolute best – and how bad at its absolute worst?
Let’s kick things off by putting on our Gotham Green-colored goggles for a dose of optimism.
In order to set a realistic best-case ceiling for the 2020 Jets offensive line, we will take a look at how the unit would rank against the rest of the league if each player matched their career-best performance in Pro Football Focus’ grading system, while adjusting things a bit for the sake of realism.
For Mekhi Becton, we will use recent rookie seasons as a reference point.
We will be projecting things as if every starter stays completely healthy for 16 games (which obviously will not happen, but the exact impact that injuries will have is impossible to predict).
Our projected five-man lineup for the sake of this exercise will be Becton (LT), Alex Lewis (LG), Connor McGovern (C), Greg Van Roten (RG), and George Fant (RT) – but of course, one of the best aspects of Douglas’ reconstruction is the fact that nothing is hammered down just yet.
Jets OL coach Frank Pollack believes it’s a mistake to believe the team is set at any one position. It’s a refreshing change this year as opposed to previous seasons when looking at OL starters etched in stone around this time.
Plenty of depth, competition. #Jets
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) June 24, 2020
Mekhi Becton (LT)
I broke down what we should expect from Becton in 2020 based on the rookie-year performances of recent top-15 tackles. The answer? Anything. Highly-drafted rookie tackles have landed all over the map, ranging from elite to downright brutal.
Since we are looking to set a ceiling, we will take an optimistic projection from this group. Say that, in overall PFF grade, Becton landed at a percentile ranking equal to the average of the top-10 tackles listed above. That would be a percentile of 73.4, which in 2019 would have placed him 18th among tackles with a 75.8 grade.
If we used the above group’s top-10 averages in PFF’s pass blocking and run blocking grades, that would give Becton grades of 77.9 (17th-best in 2019) and 69.0 (15th-best in 2019), respectively.
Becton’s realistic ceiling: 75.8 overall grade, 77.9 pass blocking grade, and 69.0 run blocking grade.
Alex Lewis (LG)
Lewis had his best season from a grading standpoint with the Ravens in 2016, although it was still hardly impressive. Here are his 2016 numbers and how those grades would have ranked among qualified guards in 2019:
- Overall grade: 60.2 (36th percentile)
- Pass blocking grade: 66.8 (45th percentile)
- Run blocking grade: 58.0 (43rd percentile)
Lewis is a smart and technically sound player, but he lacks the power or athleticism to be a true difference-maker in either phase. If he can give the Jets slightly better than average protection and slightly below average run blocking – rounding out to an average level overall – that would be more than enough to fulfill his responsibility in a stopgap role.
Unfortunately, projecting Lewis to perform like a league-average guard would be going a tad beyond anything he has shown to date (statistically), so to stay realistic we have to roll with his below average 2016 season as a best-case scenario.
Connor McGovern (C)
McGovern’s 2019 season was his first as a full-time starting center, and he was excellent:
- Overall grade: 71.9 (71st percentile)
- Pass blocking grade: 82.5 (87th percentile)
- Run blocking grade: 64.0 (52nd percentile)
Given that he has started less than two seasons’ worth of games (24) at the position, McGovern could still have some untapped potential waiting to be unlocked. However, to stay realistic, we will stick with his 2019 numbers for our ceiling projection.
Greg Van Roten (RG)
In 2019 – just his second season as a starter – Van Roten improved across the board off of his first year as a starter in 2018. At 30 years old, the Long Island native is unlikely to improve any further, so his realistic best-case scenario would be to simply maintain his solid numbers from 2019:
- Overall grade: 65.6 (70th percentile)
- Pass blocking grade: 74.3 (76th percentile)
- Run blocking grade: 57.3 (42nd percentile)
George Fant (RT)
Fant has largely been a liability throughout his career (we’ll get to that in the floor projection), but he did show flashes of excellence in 2018 (according to PFF’s grading, at least).
Coming off of a missed 2017 season due to an ACL injury, here is how Fant graded out at 26 years old in 2018, his third NFL season:
- Overall grade: 73.8 (68th percentile)
- Pass blocking grade: 74.2 (53rd percentile)
- Run blocking grade: 75.2 (91st percentile)
It should be noted that Fant only played a career-low 371 snaps that season, and most of them were as a sixth lineman. He only started-and-finished two games (coming at right tackle) and struggled in those.
Fant performing better than over two-thirds of the league’s starting tackles seems a bit too optimistic. A more realistic ceiling for Fant would be for him to elevate his game to a perfectly league-average level. Considering his strengths and weaknesses, that scenario would likely see him performing at a high level in the run game, but struggling in protection, settling in the middle overall.
Let’s say Fant ranks at the 65th percentile as a run blocker, the 35th percentile as a pass blocker, and the 50th percentile overall. In 2019, those rankings would give him grades of 67.8 overall, 65.0 as a run blocker, and 67.5 as a pass blocker.
Of course, Chuma Edoga will have his shot at winning this position as well, but for now, we’ll lean towards Douglas’ first outside addition of the new league year over the Mike Maccagnan draft pick. I do like Edoga’s potential, though, and at just 23 years old, he offers more upside than Fant.
Taking the realistic best-case scenario numbers from each player listed above, the table below showcases what an ideal season from the Jets offensive line’s performance could look like. The percentile rankings listed are where each grade would stack up among qualifiers in 2019.
This would be a massive improvement and more than strong enough for Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell to take off:
Well done. Is it possible to kick Chuma inside to OG ? Edoga has great feet but not great length for a Tackle. Needed to get much stronger this off season. Your thoughts on Pollack ?
I could see them trying Chuma at guard, they could use some more youth there with only Clark in place as a potential long-term piece (who will be converting from OT himself). I do like his potential at OT, he improved gradually despite having to switch sides a couple of times (and probably was thrown in too early anyway), hoping he can win RT over Fant. Much more upside with him.
I liked the Pollack hire a lot, he had a great track record of coaching up good OL play. Was very odd to see them be such a disaster under him, especially with the communication issues early on. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt with the injuries, lack of talent, and late-offseason additions (Kalil, Lewis), but Pollack has a lot to prove this year. Would like to see some progression from Chuma, a promising start from Becton, and strong camaraderie in pass pro from the interior trio. Anything at all from Fant would be a bonus. Run game communication/connection – just timing when to come off of blocks and hit the second level, knowing who has the backside, etc. – also needs to be a lot better.