New York Jets offensive line improves vs. New England Patriots
After being the most maligned unit on the roster in Week 1, the New York Jets offensive line took a big step forward in Week 2 as they flipped the script and became one of the most praised units on the team.
Most notably, the line led the Jets to 152 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry. The pass protection also seemed to be better.
A look at the numbers tells us that the Jets offensive line did indeed take a big step forward this week – but there is still a lot of room for improvement for coach John Benton‘s unit.
Quality run blocking
The Jets offensive line was consistently plowing New England’s defensive front off the ball, creating ample room for the running backs to gain at least a couple of yards without any effort.
New York’s starting five offensive linemen combined for a Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of 72.9. That ranked third-best out of 30 offensive lines in Week 2 (prior to Monday Night Football – all Week 2 rankings in this article are out of 30 teams, excluding MNF’s Packers and Lions).
The Jets ranked sixth in the NFL with 16 rushes for four-plus yards in Week 2.
Pass protection better, but still poor
Zach Wilson was pressured on 48.7% of his dropbacks against New England, ranking third-worst in the NFL this week. That was a slight improvement over his 51.2% rate in Week 1, which was second-worst.
In fairness to the offensive line, Wilson was holding the ball for a really long time, which pumped up his pressure rate (the longer you hold the ball, the more likely it becomes that pressure will arrive at some point).
Wilson averaged 3.29 seconds from snap-to-throw in Week 2, ranking second-highest in the NFL behind only Jalen Hurts. That was a huge spike from his 2.84-second mark in Week 1, which was eighth-highest.
The Jets’ starting five offensive linemen combined for a 58.3 pass-blocking grade at PFF, ranking 23rd out of 30 offensive lines in Week 2. That is a substantial improvement over the team’s 52.7 mark in Week 1, but there is still a long way to go.
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George Fant (LT)
George Fant was mostly good in his first start at left tackle in place of Mekhi Becton. He allowed only one pressure over 43 snaps in pass protection and earned an 84.5 pass-blocking grade at PFF that ranked third-best among left tackles in Week 2.
Fant’s run-blocking grade of 68.0 ranked 10th-best among left tackles. However, he did have two holding penalties in the game, one in pass protection and one in the run game.
Alijah Vera-Tucker (LG)
Alijah Vera-Tucker‘s run blocking was fantastic for the second consecutive game to begin his career. He earned a 77.8 PFF run-blocking grade against New England, ranking ninth-best among all guards and sixth-best among left guards.
When rushing into either the left-side A-gap (Vera-Tucker’s inside shoulder) or the left-side B-gap (Vera-Tucker’s outside shoulder), the Jets picked up 50 yards and three first downs on 10 carries (5.0 yards per carry). They averaged 2.1 yards before contact on those carries, well above the 2020 NFL average (1.5).
Two weeks in, Vera-Tucker’s 80.4 run-blocking grade on the season ranks third-best among all qualified guards (both of the players ahead of him – Matt Feiler and Michael Onwenu – are also left guards).
Vera-Tucker’s pass protection is trending in the right direction but is still a work in progress.
After giving up six pressures on 46 protection snaps in Week 1, Vera-Tucker improved in Week 2 as he allowed three pressures on 43 protection snaps, but that’s still not ideal. That’s a 7.0% rate, well above the 2020 league average for guards (4.5%). His total of three pressures tied for the fourth-most among left guards in Week 2.
Through two weeks, Vera-Tucker’s total of nine allowed pressures is tied for second-most among all guards.
Connor McGovern (C)
Connor McGovern bounced back from a highly-criticized opener with a great game in Week 2.
McGovern earned an 85.7 run-blocking grade at PFF that led all centers in Week 2. New York was dominant when rushing through the A-gaps (either side of McGovern), earning 50 yards on nine carries (5.6 yards per carry) with the offensive line producing a sublime average of 2.3 yards before contact on those rushes.
In pass protection, McGovern allowed one pressure over 43 snaps in protection and posted a 76.2 pass-blocking grade that ranked eighth among centers in Week 2.
Greg Van Roten (RG)
Greg Van Roten‘s 2020 season began with a brutal first four games but was followed up by a decent nine games.
He appears to be on track for a similar arc in 2021.
Van Roten has been the Jets’ least effective offensive linemen this season. His 52.1 overall grade at PFF this season is the worst among the Jets’ six offensive linemen to play any snaps and ranks 56th out of 69 qualified guards.
In Week 2, Van Roten was almost single-handedly responsible for the Jets turning out a subpar pass protection performance. He allowed a whopping total of seven pressures – a career-worst and three more than any other guard in the NFL this week.
Two of those seven pressures were sacks. Van Roten also had a holding penalty.
Outside of Van Roten, the Jets did a good job in pass protection against New England. The other four starting linemen combined for a 64.2 pass-blocking grade, which would have ranked 14th out of 30 units in Week 2. Van Roten dragged the entire unit down.
Van Roten was solid in the run game with a 63.4 overall grade that ranked 21st out of 64 guards in Week 2.
Morgan Moses (RT)
Morgan Moses had a good day in the run game with a 69.7 run-blocking grade that ranked 10th-best among right tackles in Week 2 and 18th out of 65 tackles.
The Jets had their best success when running in Moses’s direction, amassing 44 yards on six carries (7.3 yards per carry) when aiming at the right-side B-gap (Moses’s inside shoulder) or the right-side C-gap (Moses’s outside shoulder).
Moses allowed four pressures on 43 protection snaps, tying him for the sixth-most among tackles this week, but those losses were hardly catastrophic. All four were hurries and none were hits or sacks. His 62.3 pass-blocking grade was pedestrian, ranking 36th out of 65, telling us that his losses were minor even if they occurred fairly frequently.
Interestingly, Moses posted a pass-blocking grade of 70.0 in “true pass set” situations – one-on-one battles between one blocker and one rusher that are not impeded by other factors. That placed Moses at 19th out of 65 tackles in Week 2.
The disparity between Moses’s true pass set grade and his overall pass-blocking grade tells us that he was doing a good job in true one-on-one situations but had some issues with other things like stunts and blitzes.
New York enjoyed a much better day of blocking from the skill positions than in Week 1.
After watching their tight ends and running backs give up a league-worst five pressures against the Panthers, the Jets’ skill position players allowed only one pressure over 18 combined pass-blocking snaps against the Patriots.
Running back Michael Carter starred with six snaps in protection and no pressures allowed.
Tight end Ryan Griffin, whose blocking was atrocious in Week 1, bounced back in a huge way. He helped lead some big runs with a 70.1 run-blocking grade.
Wide receiver Corey Davis has lived up to his reputation as one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL. He earned an 81.0 run-blocking grade against the Patriots, second-best among all players on the Jets. Through two weeks, his 84.6 run-blocking grade ranks fifth in the NFL among qualified wide receivers.