New York Jets offensive line shines in upset victory over Cincinnati
Many people within the New York Jets‘ offense have received their fair share of praise for the unit’s 34-point, 511-yard extravaganza against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mike White is currently the most popular man in the New York/New Jersey area. Mike LaFleur has fended off the pitchforks and recaptured the fanbase’s confidence. Michael Carter looks like a budding star.
But in the midst of the hype surrounding the main characters, the efforts of the supporting cast cannot be forgotten. This was an impressive afternoon for New York’s oft-maligned offensive line.
The Jets’ offensive line had one heck of a game on the ground. From the very first drive of the afternoon, it was clear that New York’s offensive front had the edge over Cincinnati’s defensive front when it came to controlling the line of scrimmage.
You could consistently see within mere fractions of a second after the snap that the Jets’ offensive line was creating substantial movement and winning the leverage battle. Offensive line coach John Benton oversaw a unit that showcased precise snap timing, impressive explosiveness off the line, and good technique to gain control at the point of attack.
New York’s offensive line created more space for the running backs than they created in any game prior.
The Jets’ running backs averaged 2.1 yards before contact per carry, which ranked third-best out of 28 running back units to play in Week 8 prior to Monday Night Football.
That mark stands as a new season-high for the Jets, beating out their mark of 1.4 in a Week 2 loss to New England. It is New York’s first outing of the season with a mark over 1.5, which was the 2020 league average for running backs.
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Thanks to the strong efforts of the offensive line, the Jets’ running backs combined for 95 yards on 20 carries, an efficient average of 4.8 yards per carry. Carter led the way with 77 yards on 15 totes (5.1 yards per carry).
This effort was forged against a good Cincinnati defensive line. The Bengals are allowing the fifth-fewest yards per carry in the NFL (3.9). Defensive tackle D.J. Reader is one of the best run-stuffers in the league, while B.J. Hill and Larry Ogunjobi join him to form an excellent run-stopping interior defensive line.
Alijah Vera-Tucker had a dominant performance in the run game with an 84.1 run-blocking grade at PFF that ranked second-best among all left guards in Week 2 prior to MNF. The Jets had the majority of their success to Vera-Tucker’s side as the running backs averaged 5.7 yards per carry to the left side compared to 3.8 yards per carry to the right (10 carries to each side).
Vera-Tucker was not the only reason for the Jets’ left-side rushing success. Left tackle George Fant was having his best game as a run blocker before exiting with an ankle injury. Fant posted a season-best run-blocking grade of 80.4. He kicked out for a handful of good blocks in space, maximizing his above-average athleticism.
Credit is also due to tight end Tyler Kroft, who finally blocked at the solid level that he proved capable of throughout his pre-Jets career. Kroft threw a key downfield block on Carter’s opening-drive touchdown run.
The offensive line was solid in pass protection, although it was not as sharp in this phase as it was in the run game.
Mike White was knocked down on just 8.5% of his passing plays as he dropped back 47 times and took only two sacks and two quarterback hits. That is the second-lowest rate yielded by the Jets this year, beaten only by the 2.9% rate allowed on Zach Wilson against the Titans in Week 4.
However, the quick-passing approach of White and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur helped to mitigate some losses by the offensive line. White averaged 2.19 seconds from snap-to-throw, ranking second-fastest among quarterbacks in Week 8 (trailing only Aaron Rodgers’ 1.98).
From a pressure perspective, the protection was not awful, but it was not great. White was pressured on 36.2% of his dropbacks, which ranked 18th-lowest out of 28 qualified quarterbacks in Week 8.
Struggling interior offensive linemen Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten enjoyed much-needed solid performances. McGovern and Van Roten were credited with allowing only one pressure over 57 snaps in protection, a pressure rate of 1.8% that represents a season-best for both players.
White got good protection on the blindside despite top-tier defensive end Trey Hendrickson rushing off that side for Cincinnati. George Fant allowed zero sacks, zero hits, and two pressures over 22 protection snaps before exiting. Chuma Edoga relieved Fant and held up surprisingly well, giving up one pressure over 35 protection snaps.
Alijah Vera-Tucker and Morgan Moses were weak links in pass protection.
Vera-Tucker’s hot streak in pass protection (2 pressures over previous 3 games) came to an end as he gave up five pressures over 57 protection snaps.
White’s only in-the-pocket sack of the game was allowed by Vera-Tucker. The rookie gave up pressure to the inside, forcing White to step up, where Hendrickson peeled off of Edoga for a clean-up sack. Hendrickson’s initial rush was locked up by Edoga on the play.
Moses gave up four pressures over 57 snaps in protection. He continues to struggle in this phase. Since taking over as the starting right tackle in Week 2, Moses has allowed 21 pressures in six games. His average of 3.5 pressures allowed per game ranks as the fifth-most among right tackles over that span.
The veteran makes up for his lackluster pass protection with good run blocking – his 72.2 PFF run-blocking grade this season ranks 17th-best out of 82 qualified offensive tackles – but he has certainly been a liability when it comes to preventing pressure off the edge.
Good performances from the skill position blockers helped to make up for Vera-Tucker and Moses’ woes. Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft each allowed zero pressures on six protection snaps.
However, Michael Carter did have one shaky rep in which he allowed pressure. He pass-blocked on five snaps.
New York pass-protected decently in this game, but ultimately, the cleanliness of Mike White’s No. 5 jersey had more to do with his quick-release passing than the offensive line’s protection.
An overall step forward for the offensive line
Altogether, this was a good outing for the offensive line. The unit spearheaded a consistently productive run game that kept the offense ahead of the chains. In the passing game, it did enough to allow the Jets’ quick-release passing attack to fire on all cylinders.