Positive trend: Run blocking effectiveness is increasing
The New York Jets‘ offensive line is finally starting to consistently create ample room for the running backs to work with.
In their Week 8 win over the Bengals, the Jets’ running backs gained an average of 2.1 yards before contact per carry, per Pro Football Focus. That was a season-best and ranked third-best among all RB units in Week 8.
In a Week 9 loss to Indianapolis, New York’s backs were able to pick up 1.8 yards before contact per carry. That represented the unit’s second straight game with a rate above the approximate league average (1.5) after never hitting that benchmark over the first six games.
Much of this success has occurred on outside runs. Over the past two weeks, the Jets have picked up 71 yards on 13 carries (5.5 yards per carry) directed outside of the tight end. Of those 71 yards, 40 were gained before contact, resulting in a pristine average of 3.1 yards before contact per carry.
Left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker has also been creating a lot of room.
From Weeks 8-9, the Jets gained 23 yards before contact on 11 carries (2.1 yards before contact per carry) directed to either the left-side A-gap (Vera-Tucker’s inside shoulder) or the left-side B-gap (Vera-Tucker’s outside shoulder). Those runs resulted in 63 total rushing yards (5.7 yards per carry).
Give center Connor McGovern some credit for the success on those runs as well. He and Vera-Tucker have paired up for some great run-blocking moments this year.
Negative trend: Alijah Vera-Tucker’s pass protection
Alijah Vera-Tucker’s run blocking has been a major plus on a consistent basis since day one, but his pass protection has turned into a roller-coaster.
Vera-Tucker started cold with 12 pressures allowed over his first three games (4.0 per game). After that, he got hot, allowing only two pressures over his next three games (0.7 per game). That included back-to-back shutouts against the Titans and Falcons.
Unfortunately, it seems like Vera-Tucker still has work to do before he can establish himself as a truly solid pass blocker. Vera-Tucker was unable to maintain his progress as he has given up nine pressures over the past two games (4.5 per game).
Positive trend: Tight end blocking
As we broke down earlier, the Jets’ run-blocking is stepping it up, and the main sources of the success have been runs in Vera-Tucker’s direction and runs to the outside.
The Jets’ tight ends deserve a lot of credit for facilitating the latter.
Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft got off to ice-cold starts as blockers this season. Through three games, Griffin’s PFF run-blocking grade of 49.6 ranked at the 19th percentile among qualified tight ends, while Kroft’s run-blocking grade of 46.3 ranked at the 11th percentile.
For Griffin, this was nothing new, but for Kroft, this was a major disappointment. He was brought to New York for his blocking abilities.
Things have taken an enormous turn since then – for the better.
Since Week 4, Kroft owns a PFF run-blocking grade of 79.5, ranking fourth-best out of 83 qualified tight ends over that span (96th percentile). Shockingly, Griffin is not far behind, ranking seventh-best (93rd percentile) with a grade of 76.0.
Kroft posted a season-high run-blocking grade of 86.0 in the Jets’ Week 8 win over Cincinnati. He could be seen leading the charge on Michael Carter‘s opening-drive touchdown and sprung a few other successful runs as well.
Griffin no longer looks like a liability as a blocker. He has actually been quite solid in that phase when you turn on his blocking tape.
Kroft and Griffin have been much-maligned this season, but they’re starting to turn it around. Not to mention, one of them has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks, with Kroft scoring in Week 8 and Griffin getting his first six-pointer of the year in Week 9.
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Negative trend: Morgan Moses’ pass protection
Morgan Moses has had a good season in the run game. He has helped the Jets average 5.5 yards per carry on plays directed to the right edge, which is tied for 13th-best out of 32 teams.
However, Moses’ pass protection is an issue.
Greg Van Roten deservedly attracts most of the heat for the Jets’ protection woes (Van Roten is second among right guards with 28 pressures allowed this season), but Moses has also been a liability in that phase.
Moses has given up 27 pressures over seven starts (3.9 per game) since taking over at right tackle in Week 2. That ranks as the fifth-highest total of pressures allowed among right tackles over that span.
On the season, Moses has allowed pressure on 8.0% of his pass-blocking snaps, which is a career-high. It is a huge increase over his 2020 rate of 5.5%, which was already above the league average for tackles that year (5.3%).
If he can maintain the success he has had at left tackle, George Fant would provide a large pass-protection upgrade over Moses at right tackle once Mekhi Becton returns to take back his spot at left tackle.
Fant has allowed only 11 pressures this year (1.4 per game), making up an impressively small 3.3% of his pass-blocking snaps. He has yet to allow more than two pressures in a game.
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