The New York Jets offensive line created Texas-sized lanes in Houston
On a day when a sputtering Zach Wilson led the New York Jets to a season-low 109 passing yards against the Houston Texans, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur desperately needed to build a great rushing attack to keep the Jets alive—and his offensive line gave him a chance to do exactly that.
The Jets recorded a season-high 157 rushing yards in Houston, led by a three-headed backfield monster with top weapon Michael Carter sidelined. Tevin Coleman (16 carries for 67 yards), Ty Johnson (6 for 42), and Austin Walter (9 for 38) combined for 147 yards on an efficient 4.7 yards per carry to pace the Jets’ offense.
While the running backs did a nice job, the majority of the credit for New York’s rushing prowess in this game has to go to the offensive line.
New York’s running backs gained 74 of their 147 yards before contact, according to Pro Football Focus. That is a rate of 50.3%, ranking third-highest out of 28 running back units in Week 12 prior to Monday Night Football.
To boot, the unit’s average of 2.4 yards before contact per carry also ranked third-highest.
As a reference point, the 2020 league averages were 1.5 yards before contact per carry with 34.2% of all rushing yards coming before contact.
This was a tremendous run-blocking performance. The running backs’ jobs were made easy. They did not have to do much besides barrel through the gaping holes that were presented to them, which they did well.
The most impressive aspect of the Jets’ collective run-blocking success in Houston is the fact that New York was creating ample running room in almost every direction that they tried to run the ball. It was a full-on team effort of trench domination.
Here is a look at New York’s rushing success against the Texans based on the targeted gap – they produced at least the 2020 league average of 1.5 yards before contact per carry (YBC) in six of the eight recorded directions:
- Left end (outside of the TE): 8 carries for 43 yards (5.4 yards per carry), 25 yards before contact (3.1 YBC)
- Left C-gap (outside shoulder of LT): 1 carry for 2 yards (2.0 YPC), 2 yards before contact (2.0 YBC)
- Left B-gap (between LT and LG): 2 carries for 9 yards (4.5 YPC), 3 yards before contact (1.5 YBC)
- Left A-gap (between LG and C): 3 carries for 31 yards (10.3 YPC), 24 yards before contact (8.0 YBC)
- Right A-gap (between C and RG): 3 carries for 15 yards (5.0 YPC), 10 yards before contact (3.3 YBC)
- Right B-gap (between RG and RT): 3 carries for 3 yards (1.0 YPC), 2 yards before contact (0.7 YBC)
- Right C-gap (outside shoulder of RT): 6 carries for 33 yards (5.5 YPC), 18 yards before contact (3.0 YBC)
- Right end (outside of the TE): 7 carries for 22 yards (3.1 YPC), -6 yards before contact (-0.9 YBC)
Rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker continues to be a driving force in the run game.
The Jets’ top two gaps this season in terms of total rushing yards are the two to either side of Vera-Tucker: the left B-gap (182 yards) and the left A-gap (189 yards). They are averaging 4.8 yards per carry when running into either one of those two gaps, including a league-average 1.5 yards before contact per carry.
When running in any other direction this season, the Jets are averaging 3.6 yards per carry with 1.1 yards before contact per carry.
It is not a coincidence that the Jets have experienced much-improved rushing success since Laurent Duvernay-Tardif replaced Greg Van Roten in Week 11. The Jets are averaging 5.0 yards per carry across their two games with Duvernay-Tardif in the lineup, a far cry from their season average of 3.6 yards per carry prior to his entry.
Connor McGovern had a good run-blocking game against Houston as he helped the Jets rush for 46 yards into the A-gaps on 7.7 yards per carry, including 5.7 yards before contact. He continues to have a nice season in the run game: PFF has him ranked as the seventh-best run-blocking center this season out of 33 qualifiers with a 75.8 run-blocking grade.
George Fant‘s run blocking at left tackle has been a mixed bag throughout the year despite his consistent play in the passing game, but he did a solid job in Houston, aiding the Jets in gaining 43 yards on eight carries to the left end (5.3 YPC, 3.1 YBC).
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Morgan Moses also spearheaded some success in his direction at right tackle, paving the way for 33 yards on six carries into the right C-gap (5.5 YPC, 3.0 YBC).
Moses has done well in the run game at right tackle this season. The Jets’ third-ranked gap in terms of total rushing yards is the right C-gap, where they have gained 114 yards. That is also their best gap in terms of yards per carry at 5.2. Moses is excellent at down-blocking, creating plenty of movement when working toward defensive tackles to his inside so that the Jets can run behind him to the outside.
Things are trending in the right direction for the Jets’ run-blocking. Once the team gets back Michael Carter – who creates far more production beyond what is blocked for him than his teammates – the ceiling of the run game will rise to elite levels. Top-notch run-blocking coupled with an outstanding tackle-breaker like Carter is a dangerous combo.