New York Jets offensive line performs well vs. Atlanta Falcons
The New York Jets‘ offensive line is steadily beginning to improve.
New York’s front-five had itself a solid performance in London against the Atlanta Falcons. Zach Wilson tossed 32 passes while absorbing two sacks and three additional knockdowns. That’s a quarterback-hit rate of 14.7%, which is below the 2021 league average of 15.6%.
Making that better-than-average rate even more impressive is the fact that Wilson was taking eons to get the ball out. Wilson averaged 3.11 seconds from snap to release, the highest mark among all quarterbacks in Week 5.
When the quarterback takes longer to get the ball out, he naturally leaves himself vulnerable to absorbing more hits. However, in this game, Wilson was able to hold the ball for a long time while still getting hit at an infrequent rate, which is a testament to the line’s strong performance in pass protection.
Wilson also took a fairly low amount of pressure relative to how long he held the ball. He was pressured on 32.3% of his dropbacks, which only ranked 12th-highest out of 32 qualified quarterbacks.
The general expectation is for there to be a direct correlation between time-to-throw and pressure rate, so for Wilson to rank No. 1 in time-to-throw but way down at 12th in pressure rate is, once again, an indicator of the offensive line’s prowess.
This impressive pass-protection outing was a continuation of the progress shown against Tennessee the previous week.
In Week 4, Wilson was sacked once and knocked down zero other times over 34 pass attempts (2.9% quarterback-hit rate), all while still taking 3.12 seconds from snap-to-throw on average (2nd-highest of the week). His 29.7% pressure rate ranked 18th.
The offensive line also looked good in the running game against Atlanta. Pro Football Focus scored the Jets’ offense with a collective run-blocking grade of 90.3, which is elite.
As a cherry on top, the offensive line committed no penalties. The unit has been flagged only twice over the past three games.
There were plenty of positive individual takeaways from the offensive line’s Week 5 performance, spearheaded by the rapid growth of the unit’s youngest player.
Alijah Vera-Tucker is growing quickly
Alijah Vera-Tucker has wasted no time erasing his early struggles as a pass-blocker. After contributing greatly to the Jets’ early pass-protection woes, he now looks like the unit’s most polished and unbeatable protector by a wide margin.
Vera-Tucker shut down the Titans with zero pressures allowed on 38 protection snaps in Week 4. He did himself one better in Week 5, heading out to London and allowing zero pressures on 39 protection snaps against the Falcons.
Notably, a decent chunk of Vera-Tucker’s protection reps came against two-time Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett, who played 17 of his 44 defensive snaps on the right side of the defensive line (across from the left side of the offensive line).
Vera-Tucker also dominated in the run game with a 90.6 PFF run-blocking grade to lead all guards in Week 5. The Jets picked up 23 yards on five carries directed into the left-side A or B-gaps (4.6 yards per carry).
It is remarkable how quickly Vera-Tucker seems to be progressing. He gave up six pressures in his NFL debut, three pressures in each of the next two games, and now zero in each of the following two. The USC product is winning his one-on-one battles consistently and is doing a much better job of picking up stunts and blitzes.
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George Fant and Connor McGovern stay clean
Right tackle George Fant and center Connor McGovern allowed two pressures and one pressures, respectively, over 39 protection snaps against the Falcons.
Fant continues his run of excellent pass protection since taking over at left tackle for Mekhi Becton. He has allowed just one or two pressures in each of his four starts on the blindside.
McGovern is slowly starting to re-establish himself as the top-10 center he was in Denver the season before the Jets signed him. He is currently ranked as PFF’s seventh-best center with a 75.7 grade. His allowed pressure rate is down to 3.4%, a big improvement over his 5.5% rate in 2020. He can still keep improving, though – he was at 2.5% for the Broncos in 2019.
Another high-pressure game from Greg Van Roten
Greg Van Roten has not been as catastrophically bad over the past two games as he was against New England and Denver, but he continues to struggle.
Van Roten allowed three pressures against Atlanta, his second consecutive game with that total. Three pressures is a poor total for a guard – this week, it tied Van Roten for seventh-most among all guards.
Morgan Moses gets beaten down
Morgan Moses was the Jets’ biggest pass-protection sieve against the Falcons. He gave up a season-high six pressures, competing primarily with right-side outside linebackers Steven Means and Adeto Ogundeji.
Since taking over at right tackle in Week 2, Moses has allowed the second-most pressures among right tackles (16). He has done a solid job as a run blocker, though, owning a 70.1 run-blocking grade on the season. That ranks 10th-best among qualified right tackles this season.
Skill position blocking report
The Jets’ skill position blockers came through against Atlanta, combining for one allowed pressure (courtesy of Trevon Wesco, who had 4 pass-blocking snaps) over 23 pass-blocking snaps.
Corey Davis continues to shine as a blocker. He threw some nice blocks and earned an 83.7 run-blocking grade. On the season, Davis ranks second-best out of 109 qualified wide receivers with a 79.9 run-blocking grade.
Question for you Michael….you called it with Moses, he’s a nice guy to have to fill in but not the player he once was and not dominant. Fant, seems to be fine at LT for now, he’s not a great run blocker but seems to have stabilized the pass blocking. I am not an expert but I’m a fan of putting Becton at RT, then going out and drafting a stud to play LT with some of our draft capital this off-season. Do you think that makes any sense? They will need to draft an OL no matter what this year, and they need a G and C too.
It’s plausible but I think they’ll probably just stick with their Week 1 plan and put Becton back at LT and Fant back at RT. Maybe they could make that switch after the season to give Becton time to work on it if they find someone they like at LT. But I feel like LT is the plan for him. And on-field he’s been good with the potential to be great, so I think they want to keep him at the more-valuable side. They’ll be hoping Fant will translate his current success at LT over to RT – we’ll see if he can do it – but I’m not sure changing up the long-term plan with Becton for the sake of Fant’s short-term success is the right move. I definitely see where you’re coming from though.
Guard is an absolute need. Center, let’s see how McGovern can finish out the year. Tackle all depends on Fant. If he can finish the year playing as he is in pass protection at RT opposite Becton, keeping him around at his cost ($10.7m hit next year) would make sense.
Thanks Michael, not sure much Fant’s play, something about how the line started the season, and some of the lapses in Becton’s game make me feel he’s better suited to be a dominant RT rather than LT.
I think there’s definitely something to be said for Becton at RT, considering that’s usually the side where teams value run-blocking over pass protection. Perhaps down the line it’s considered if Becton faces woes at LT, but for now, just reading the tea leaves, I don’t see any signals that they’ll consider do that. If Fant can carry over his current pass-pro success to RT, that would be a big win, but we’ll have to see if Fant continues his stark RT-LT splits or if maybe he is just playing better football this year and can translate it to the right side.
Fant is overpaid as a RT , but underpaid as LT. A good LT in FA makes 15+. There is remote possibility that Fant could dealt in 2022. Certainly George has increased his value, as a potential top ten LT.