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The numbers lied about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s Jets debut

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Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

The numbers and film tell different stories about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s Jets debut

In Week 11, the New York Jets made their first non-injury-related offensive line change of the season. They benched fledgling right guard Greg Van Roten in favor of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (known as “LDT” for short), who was recently acquired from Kansas City.

I broke down the numbers behind Duvernay-Tardif’s first start as a Jet in a previous article.

The stats suggested that Duvernay-Tardif had a great day in the run game and was a clear upgrade over Van Roten in that phase. However, they also suggested he had a brutal afternoon in pass protection that equaled Van Roten’s lowest valleys of the year. Duvernay-Tardif tied Van Roten’s season-high with seven pressures allowed.

After watching LDT’s film from the game, I came to a much different conclusion than the numbers.

While I agreed that he looked solid as a run-blocker, I did not see the pass protection issues that the numbers suggest he had. Duvernay-Tardif looked very solid in the passing game.

I probably saw Duvernay-Tardif allow three or four pressures (depending on how you define the term), but seven? By my count, I certainly did not see him get close to that number.

Not only did Pro Football Focus tag him with seven pressures, but they gave him an abysmal pass-blocking grade, too. Duvernay-Tardif earned a gruesome pass-blocking grade of 17.1 that was the second-worst among starting right guards in Week 11.

That is way off the mark.

Duvernay-Tardif showed vet-savvy awareness when it came to picking up blitzes, mostly held his own in one-on-one battles, and was excellent at providing help to his teammates when he was left without an assignment. His overall impact in the passing game was positive in my opinion.

To suggest he had an atrocious pass-blocking game makes no sense to me.

This conundrum is a great example of why we should always blend the numbers and the film to evaluate players.

Numbers are fantastic. They allow us to compare every player across the league on the same plane. They allow us to overcome the limitations of our memory and give us real, crude data on what transpired across every single snap in a game. They can be used to identify tendencies, trends, strengths, and weaknesses.

With all of that being said, the numbers can lie – especially numbers like pressures and PFF grades that are subjective and largely based on the opinion of the person tracking them.

For that reason, it is crucial to analyze both the numbers and the film to get the entire story on a player.

Usually, the numbers are fairly accurate. But in some situations – such as LDT’s debut performance and C.J. Mosley being graded as one of the NFL’s worst linebackers this year – the numbers appear to be objectively incorrect.

You never want to marry the statistics and treat them as gospel. If you see a statistic that suggests something preposterous, completely opposing what the eye test shows, it is okay to write it off – as long as you have sufficient on-film evidence to combat it.

And that’s the purpose of this breakdown.

I thought Duvernay-Tardif’s film showcased a much better performance than the one he had on paper. Let’s dig into some of the impressive plays he put on tape in his first Jets start.

Film from Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s Jets starting debut

LDT (#72) slides left but realizes his right tackle (Morgan Moses) is getting beaten to the inside. He comes back to his right to help Moses, bailing him out as he thwarts the rusher. After passing the rusher back into Moses’ control, LDT peels off the block and picks up a rusher who is in the process of beating Ryan Griffin to the inside.

Great awareness and help.

This is not the most earth-shattering block from LDT but he gets his job done sufficiently to help spring a long run. LDT is tasked with crossing the face of the 2i-technique. While he can’t get all the way around the defender to seal him outside, LDT slows him down just enough to keep him from pursuing the play from the back side. Michael Carter nearly scores a touchdown.

Greg Van Roten often allowed easy back-side penetration in these situations.

LDT battles the 4-technique (excellent DT Christian Wilkins) and holds him in check. Good hands from LDT as he pushes Wilkins’ arms upwards to prevent him from making strong contact.

Nothing groundbreaking here, but LDT and center Connor McGovern team up for a nice double-team on the nose tackle that prevents him from getting anywhere near the quarterback.

Great block by LDT against a stand-up linebacker who lines up over his inside shoulder. On a run to the left, LDT explodes off the ball and crosses the face of the defender to steal play-side leverage. LDT gets hands-on, turns his hips, and seals the defender away from the desired running lane.

LDT gets a tough pre-snap look as he is peppered with a potential blitzer over each of his shoulders. Post-snap, he works inside (toward the threat closest to the quarterback) as he passes off the inner blitzer to the inside. Then, he works back out and shoves the other blitzer out of the play.

LDT is again covered by two defenders against a crowded look from Miami’s aggressive defense. He manages to stifle both of them, using each arm to guard half of a man while the two teammates beside him (McGovern at C and Conor McDermott at RT) took the other halves of the two defenders.

This should be a penalty on Xavien Howard against Elijah Moore, by the way.

Picture-perfect combo blocking from LDT and McGovern here. McGovern takes the nose tackle’s play-side half while LDT takes his back-side half, and they drive him down the field. McGovern passes the NT off to LDT, and LDT picks it up beautifully as he works his hips around to seal him out of the play.

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LDT sees the edge defender drop and realizes that he and Moses have a 2-on-1 against the 3-tech (elite pressure producer Emmanuel Ogbah), so he works Ogbah outside into a double-team with Moses. LDT and Moses shut Ogbah down.

Again covered by two defenders, LDT does his job correctly as he slides left and picks up #43, trusting that Moses will pick up #29, which he does. Good work by the offensive line here – terrible pickup by Ty Johnson.

LDT works up to the back-side linebacker, fires his hands accurately into the LB’s chest, gets a strong grip, and flips his hips to seal the LB away from the play. LDT tops it off with some grittiness as he plays through the whistle.

Before moving on to more positive plays, I want to highlight the two costly mistakes I saw LDT make in the game.

LDT is late to work back inside and pick up the looper on this stunt, allowing pressure that prompts Joe Flacco into taking an intentional grounding penalty.

LDT fails to pick up another stunt. He works inside to help McGovern, who only takes the outside half of the nose tackle and expects LDT to help him out. However, LDT takes a bit too long to get inside and help. LDT holds the NT long enough for McGovern to fully pick him up, but by the time he gets back outside to the looper, he is a tad too late. Jaelan Phillips beats him with a rip to get the sack. This led to a Jets punt, and Miami would ice the game on the ensuing drive.

Back to the good stuff.

Beautiful help from LDT in pass protection here. Left without an assignment, he drops his inside shoulder and bulldozes McGovern’s man, sending him to the turf.

LDT with a dominant one-on-one protection rep against Wilkins. He slides outside, engages early, gets his right hand into Wilkins’ chest, and stays square to Wilkins as he slides his feet fluidly. LDT keeps Wilkins far away from Flacco, who uses the great protection to hit Elijah Moore for a big gain.

LDT slides left but notices a blitzer crashing into a vacant B-gap to his right, as Moses was late to slide over since he began the rep by stepping outside. LDT is unable to fully pick up the rusher, but he slows him down enough to allow the Jets to execute a flea-flicker. Flacco gets enough time to dump the ball off. Had LDT not bailed Moses out here, Tevin Coleman may have been tackled before even tossing the ball back.

LDT wins a one-on-one rep against Jaelan Phillips as he avoids biting on Phillips’ inside jab step and also avoids falling victim to Phillips’ double-swipe move. LDT catches Phillips in the upper body and snatches his jersey to gain control. Showing more feistiness, LDT drives him downfield and tackles him well after the whistle.

Duvernay-Tardif looked like an above-average starting guard in his Jets debut. If he can keep that going over the next seven weeks, he could establish himself as the Jets’ answer at right guard going into 2022 (so long as the Jets can come to terms on a new deal with the pending unrestricted free agent).

As for the numbers-versus-film debate: It should not be completely written off that PFF charged Duvernay-Tardif with seven pressures and a bad pass-blocking grade. Those metrics are not biased against the Jets. Every guard in the league gets evaluated the same way on the same scale. Picking and choosing when to put stock into a certain metric is a dangerous tightrope to walk.

With that being said, it is important to recognize that we can ignore a statistic when it suggests the polar opposite of what the film shows, especially when it is a subjective metric like pressures or PFF grades that is not a cold-hard fact and could differ depending on the perspective of whoever is tracking it.

Numbers, film – you need ’em both to fully evaluate players and teams. A happy marriage between the two mediums is the best way to paint the full picture.

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