How is the New York Jets offensive line doing?
We’re just about one-quarter of the way through the New York Jets‘ 2021 season, a campaign that will be defined by the development of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Perhaps the most instrumental facet of the organization in supplementing Wilson’s success is the offensive line. How has coach John Benton‘s unit been doing so far?
Let’s dig into some of the most important numbers on the Jets’ offensive line through four weeks of play in 2021.
George Fant’s pass protection
In the passing game, George Fant has filled in admirably at left tackle for Mekhi Becton.
Since taking over as the starting left tackle in Week 2, Fant has earned an 84.1 pass-blocking grade at Pro Football Focus, ranking second-best among all left tackles over that span behind only Chicago’s Charles Leno.
Fant has given up just four pressures over 122 snaps in pass protection as a starting left tackle, a rate of 3.3% that ranks third-best over the past three weeks behind Leno (2.3%) and the Giants’ Andrew Thomas (2.9%).
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Connor McGovern’s bounce-back
Connor McGovern has taken a lot of heat from Jets fans this year but he seems to be creeping closer to the top-10 form that he showcased with the Denver Broncos in 2021. Many of the plays in which he has popped off the screen in a negative way have been largely to blame on the rookie guard to his left or the awful guard to his right.
McGovern is currently ranked as PFF’s 10th-best center with a 70.8 overall grade. Since a disastrous season opener against the Panthers, he ranks as the No. 4 center over the past three weeks.
Morgan Moses posted a season-high 75.1 overall grade against the Titans in Week 4, thriving in both phases. He allowed only two pressures over 38 snaps in pass protection (5.3% rate) and helped the Jets pick up 22 yards over four carries (5.5 average) toward the right side B-gap, C-gap, or D-gap.
Outside of a Week 3 battle with Von Miller, who makes everyone look silly, Moses has had a solid start to the season. His overall PFF grade across the other three games is a strong 74.3, which would currently be good enough for fifth-best among all right tackles on the season. Even including the Denver game, Moses still ranks ninth among right tackles with a 68.9 overall grade.
Moses has been especially impactful in the run game, leading the Jets to their most efficient rushing success.
Of the eight primary rushing gaps (left and right-side A-through-D gaps), New York’s two most efficient targets in terms of yards per carry have been the right-side B-gap (6.5 yards per carry) and the right-side C-gap (5.9 yards per carry) – the two gaps on either side of Moses.
Greg Van Roten
Greg Van Roten is the weak link of the Jets’ offensive line. He has been credited with allowing 18 pressures this season, which ranks as the second-most among guards behind Tennessee’s Nate Davis (21).
Yardage before contact
The Jets’ offensive line has collectively struggled to produce yardage before contact for the Jets’ running backs. The ball carries have consistently been getting hit early in the play.
New York’s running backs have averaged 0.81 yards before contact this season, ranking 27th in the league.
While Fant has been good in relief of Becton as a pass blocker, he has struggled in the run game. Fant’s PFF run-blocking grade since moving over to left tackle in Week 2 is a measly 51.6, ranking at the 25th percentile among qualified tackles over that span.
The Jets’ run game has been at its worst when running in Fant’s direction. New York has generated 21 yards and one first down over 11 carries directed to the outside of the left tackle. That includes a measly one yard before contact (0.09 per carry).
Becton is sorely missed in this phase.
Pressure allowed on Zach Wilson
Through three weeks, Zach Wilson had been pressured on 46.7% of his dropbacks, ranking second-highest among qualified quarterbacks behind Carson Wentz (47.5%).
That could partially be blamed on Wilson for holding the ball too long, as he ranked fourth in the league with an average of 3.0 seconds from snap to release, but the pressure frequency was primarily the fault of the blocking.
Wilson finally got some adequate protection in Week 4 as he was pressured on just 29.7% of his dropbacks, ranking 17th-lowest out of 34 qualifiers. He also ranked third in the league with a supreme average of 3.25 seconds to throw.
A combination like that indicates the protection was strong. There is typically a direct relationship between pressure rate and time to throw – the longer a quarterback holds the ball, the more likely pressure will arrive, and vice versa.
For Wilson to be pressured at an approximately league-average rate while still taking longer to throw the ball than any other quarterback is a testament to the offensive line. They gave him the time he needed to execute his long-developing deep bombs.
Alijah Vera-Tucker’s pass protection
Rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker played a big role in the Jets’ protection woes over the first three weeks. From Weeks 1-3, he ranked second on the team behind Van Roten with 12 pressures allowed, a total that ranked sixth-worst among all guards in the NFL.
Vera-Tucker showed substantial progress in Week 4 as he did not allow a single pressure over 38 pass-blocking snaps. His clean performance against Tennessee represented the first shutout of the season by a starting Jets offensive lineman.
The USC product was already playing well as a run blocker to begin his career. Once he masters the mental and technical aspects of pass protection, he will be on his way to stardom.
When is Becton back and what exactly is keeping him out? At what point do we consider him a bust? He can’t seem to get through a game, or for that matter, a practice.
Good write up. Thanks
Fant is truly a Left Tackle, is making money for his next contract. Overpaid as a RT, under paid as a LT. The quick development of AVT is great for Zack