A statistical breakdown of New York Jets offensive tackle Duane Brown
The New York Jets have signed offensive tackle Duane Brown to a two-year, $22 million deal (additional terms are yet to be disclosed). Brown will be replacing the injured Mekhi Becton in New York’s starting lineup. It remains unknown whether the Jets plan to start him at left or right tackle, but either way, Brown is set to be an every-down starter for this Jets team in 2022.
Brown will be turning 37 years old later this month and is entering his 15th NFL season. How much gas does he have left in the tank? Where does he rank among starting tackles at this point of his career?
Let’s dive into Brown’s numbers to figure out exactly what caliber of player the Jets are getting.
For the majority of his career, Brown was one of the NFL’s best left tackles.
Brown was selected by the Houston Texans out of Virginia Tech with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2008 draft. The former Hokie started 133 games in Houston before he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, for whom he would start 70 games. Brown was a consistently elite player for both teams, as he is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro (1 first-team, 2 second-team).
In the 21-year history of the Houston Texans, Brown is currently the third-most valuable player in franchise history based on Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV) metric. Brown accumulated 78 AV in Houston, trailing only Andre Johnson (119) and J.J. Watt (122) on the team’s all-time list.
Over his five years in Seattle, Brown ranked as the Seahawks’ fourth-most valuable player with 44 AV, trailing only Tyler Lockett (46), Russell Wilson (73), and Bobby Wagner (74).
Make no mistake: The Jets are probably not getting the elite version of Brown that we described in the previous section. The 2021 season was Brown’s worst since his rookie year. He earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod, but that was based on popularity and was not an accurate estimation of his play.
This is not to say that Brown was bad, though. Not at all. While Brown may not have been his previous dominant self, he was still a solid NFL starter.
Brown earned an overall grade of 71.5 at Pro Football Focus. Despite being his worst grade since his rookie season, it still ranked 30th out of 66 qualified tackles (55th percentile), making him a top-half starter according to that metric.
When breaking up Brown’s production by phase, he still appeared to be right around league-average in both areas. He was not noticeably better as either a pass or run blocker.
In pass protection, Brown allowed 33 pressures over 585 pass-blocking snaps, which is a pressure rate of 5.64%. That ranked 39th out of 66 qualified tackles (42nd percentile) and is almost identical to the 2021 league average for tackles (5.63%). He also earned a much better ranking in ESPN’s pass-block win rate, landing at 26th.
These numbers would make Brown a substantial upgrade over Morgan Moses, which is who Brown is essentially replacing (rather than Becton). In 2021, Moses ranked 53rd out of 66 qualifiers (20th percentile) by allowing pressure on 7.22% of his pass-blocking snaps (49 pressures on 697 pass-blocking snaps).
Review will be out soon! pic.twitter.com/S38KCnKSWq
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) August 11, 2022
It is worth noting that Brown was tagged with a high total of 8 sacks allowed. Brown gave up five of the sacks with Russell Wilson under center and three with Geno Smith under center. While concerning, part of that total may be due to the fact that Wilson and Smith are two of the most sack-prone quarterbacks in the league.
Brown also may have been a victim of some bad luck regarding the sack conversion rates of his opponents when they defeated him. He was credited with giving up 8 sacks but only 3 hits and 22 hurries, which means his opponents converted 8 of their 33 total pressures (8 sacks + 3 hits + 22 hurries) into sacks. That’s a sizzling ratio of 24.2%, which ranked fourth-highest among qualified tackles. The positional average was 15.2%.
The sack number is something to keep in mind, but if Brown pass-blocks at the same level in 2022 when it comes to his overall pressure rate, I’d expect his sack total to go down.
As a run-blocker, Brown ranked 34th out of 66 qualifiers (49th percentile) with a run-blocking grade of 69.6 at PFF. He helped the Seahawks achieve great success on rushes to his side. Seattle rushed for 690 yards on 140 carries to the left, which is 4.93 yards per carry.
The 2021 season gave Brown experience in a similar offensive scheme to the one he will be joining in New York. The Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator was Shane Waldron, who previously worked under Sean McVay with the Rams. McVay, of course, comes from the same coaching tree as Kyle Shanahan, which is who Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur previously worked under before coming to New York.
According to PFF, Seattle’s offensive linemen were asked to run a zone-blocking concept on 74.0% of their run-blocking snaps in 2021, which was the third-highest rate in the NFL. The Jets ranked three spots below Seattle at 71.1%, so Brown is ready for the zone-heavy workload.
Brown is a disciplined player who commits penalties at a fairly low rate. In 2021, he was called for five penalties over 969 offensive snaps. He ranked 31st out of 66 qualified tackles with a rate of one penalty per 193.8 snaps. The league average for tackles was 158.3.
Brown’s durability record is strong. For his career, he has played an average of 14.5 games per season. Brown did not miss a game in either of the past two seasons.
The addition of Brown presents a conundrum for the Jets. Brown has never played an NFL snap at right tackle. Because of this, the Jets will have to choose between making Brown play a new position or forcing George Fant to move back to right tackle.
Brown has actually played 20 snaps in his career in a tight end alignment (as part of 6-OL packages), and some of those were on the right side, so playing on the right is not completely foreign to him. Regardless, it is definitely worth noting that the right tackle position is one he has never played at the professional level.
In Brown, the Jets should be getting a league-average starting tackle in both phases. After the catastrophic loss of Mekhi Becton for a second consecutive season, a player of that caliber is about as good of a fallback plan as you could hope for.
New York will be hoping that Brown can avoid becoming the next Ryan Kalil. Back in 2019, the Jets added an aging Kalil late in the offseason to try and get competent production out of the center position. Kalil was a star in his prime, but he turned out to be an enormous liability in his short Jets tenure.
The main difference between Brown and Kalil is that Brown still has a desire to play while Kalil was yanked out of retirement. Brown has also been healthier and more productive in his recent seasons than Kalil was when the Jets signed him.
If Brown can replicate his 2021 production, the Jets will get their money’s worth. A league-average season from Brown would likely mean the Jets have five average-or-better starters on their offensive line (provided everyone is healthy), making it one of the most balanced units in the league.
And as Vitor Paiva wrote earlier today, it is more important for an offensive line to be a cohesive five-man unit than it is for the group to have the best cumulative talent. Losing Becton undoubtedly hurts the unit’s ceiling, but by rebounding with Brown, it can continue chugging forward as a well-rounded unit of five reliable players.