It’s time for the New York Jets to bench Greg Van Roten
The New York Jets have a massive number of problems in all three phases of the game. You don’t go 1-5 while putting yourself on pace for the worst scoring margin in franchise history because of one player.
But right guard Greg Van Roten is absolutely destroying the Jets’ chances of winning games to a level that no other individual player on the team can contend with.
In both the run game and the passing game, Van Roten is consistently losing battles in such a brutal fashion that he single-handedly ruins plays that have a solid chance of succeeding. It is not normal for one offensive lineman to be as massive of a detriment as Van Roten currently is.
For example, in the Jets’ Week 7 loss to New England, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur drew flak for calling a run up the middle on a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter. Ty Johnson was stuffed and the Jets turned the ball over on downs.
The call itself was perfectly fine. An NFL offense should be able to give its running back enough room to gain one yard. It is not difficult to execute that play.
And, for the most part, the play was executed very well. Movement was created across the line and Johnson had a clear path to the sticks as he took the handoff.
Only one player botched his assignment: Van Roten.
Van Roten was on the back side of the play, as the Jets handed the ball off to the left, and yet he still allowed the run to be blown up. He lets the back-side 4-technique defensive tackle cross his face with such ease that he is able to zoom down the line and make the stop in the opposite C-gap.
The entire offense is made to look bad due to one player’s mishap.
Van Roten has been coming up small in huge spots as a pass protector, too.
On this play against the Titans, Corey Davis breaks wide open on a post route for a possible touchdown. Zach Wilson steps up and prepares to unload the ball to him, but Van Roten allows a defender to penetrate the pocket and get a hand on Wilson’s helmet, prompting Wilson to scramble.
Here, Braxton Berrios is left wide open up the seam, but Wilson’s chance to hit him is ruined by Van Roten, who loses a one-on-one rep to a linebacker.
Van Roten has allowed 3.7 pressures per game this season, the most among right guards with at least five starts.
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The Jets need to try something different to give the rest of the team a better chance to succeed. It is difficult to evaluate the offense when the blocking is as messy as it is, and Van Roten is the primary culprit for that messiness by a wide margin.
While their alternative options are certainly not likely to be significantly better than what they are currently working with, they cannot be any worse.
One option is simply benching Van Roten for Dan Feeney. The former Charger started at left guard for Los Angeles from 2017-19.
Feeney was consistently one of the worst starting guards in football, so the odds are strong that things would not be much better with him in Van Roten’s place. Once again, though, he can hardly be worse, so it’s worth a shot at this point.
Another option is moving starting center Connor McGovern to right guard and playing Feeney at center. Feeney was the Chargers’ starting center in 2020 while McGovern began his NFL career at right guard with the Broncos.
A move back to guard could be beneficial for McGovern. He is a great athlete and physically talented player but struggles mightily with the mental aspects that are demanded of the center position. Going back to 2020, he has frequently botched blitz and stunt pickups while being the commander of a line that is riddled with communication issues.
Feeney may be more effective at center than guard. At center in 2020, Feeney allowed a career-low pressure rate of 4.5%. That is still subpar for a center (the position average was 3.1% that year) but it is better than his numbers at guard. As a guard from 2017-19, Feeney allowed a pressure rate of 6.6% – the 2020 guard average was 4.5%.
To boot, Feeney had a career-low two penalties in 2020 even while playing a career-high 1,174 snaps.
New York could also explore the trade market. Kansas City’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif makes a lot of sense.
Whatever the Jets decide to do, it is time for them to try something different. Their alternative method may prove to be similarly bad as the lineup they are currently running with, but there is at least a chance that it could lead to something better.
If the Jets stand pat with Van Roten, it is a near-guarantee the offense will continue to sputter.
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