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Have the NY Jets found their optimal O-line combo? | Film

Alijah Vera-Tucker, NY Jets, Offensive Line, Depth Chart
Alijah Vera-Tucker, Connor McGovern, Laken Tomlinson, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ new offensive line combination looked stellar on film

With the season debut of Duane Brown and the absence of Max Mitchell, the New York Jets unveiled yet another offensive line combination (their fifth of the season) in their Week 5 win over the Miami Dolphins:

As I broke down earlier this week, the new quintet produced excellent results. Zach Wilson was pressured on 20.8% of his dropbacks, ranking fifth-lowest among all quarterbacks in Week 5. On the ground, the Jets rushed for 135 yards and five touchdowns (2nd-most rushing TDs in franchise history).

The film backs up what it is shown by the numbers. I was extremely impressed by what I saw from this offensive line. They consistently overpowered Miami’s defensive front, looking cohesive and athletic throughout the afternoon.

Let’s watch this unit in action.

Run blocking film

Great job by Herbig on the trap block against the nose tackle, while Vera-Tucker drives the 4i-technique defensive tackle (over Vera-Tucker’s inside shoulder) to the inside. Tomlinson pulls and seals the edge. Corey Davis lures his man inside. It’s a huge lane for Breece Hall.

Keep an eye on Tomlinson throughout the film review. I thought he had an excellent game. It was a promising rebound for him.

This 1-yard touchdown by Michael Carter is facilitated by Herbig and Vera-Tucker’s dominant combo block on the 2-technique defensive tackle (head-up over Herbig). They plow him inside and Carter runs right behind them for the score.

First of all, you have to love the vision and the stop-start speed by Hall here. He takes the handoff, plants, scans down the line, finds the hole on the back side of the split-zone run, and then explodes.

Vera-Tucker and C.J. Uzomah create this hole. Vera-Tucker drives the 3-technique defensive tackle (over Herbig’s outside shoulder) down the line to create a cutback lane for Hall. Uzomah sifts across the line to the back side and seals the edge defender. Hall runs between Uzomah and Vera-Tucker for a big play. Nice job by Tyler Conklin at the second level, too.

Tomlinson did a great job of understanding leverage in this game. Here, he pulls outside and knows the edge defender has heavy outside leverage, so he simply uses his momentum against him, allowing him to pursue into the backfield and then pushing him upfield. Hall runs behind him. Tomlinson had a few blocks like this where he created an easy read for the running back.

On the inside, Herbig and Brown do a good job of sealing their defenders out of the lane. Vera-Tucker also does a fantastic job on the back side.

Hall still gets contacted around the line of scrimmage since Conklin allows his man to beat him outside, but since Hall has a head of steam thanks to the initial hole created for him, he runs through the defender and gets a good pickup.

Another good job by Tomlinson of understanding leverage. The 3-tech crosses his face and tries to sneak inside, so Tomlinson allows him to take himself out of the play as Hall runs behind him. Brown also does a good job of kicking out the edge defender.

Hall does the rest of the work, stiff arming one defender and running through another on his way to another chunk of yardage.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

This is not the prettiest rep you will ever see, but thanks to the offensive line’s solid initial push – specifically Tomlinson and Brown’s combo on the 4i-technique, pushing him about a yard downfield – Hall gets enough room to plow forward and sift through traffic for a healthy gain of five yards on second-and-1.

This is art. So many good blocks on one play.

First of all, this is an elite play by Vera-Tucker. He pulls outside, beats the play-side linebacker to the spot, gets his hips turned, and pins the linebacker inside. Special stuff from the budding superstar.

Herbig also makes a tremendous play as he crosses the 3-technique’s faces, turns his hips, and pins the defender inside.

Next, you get two great blocks from your wideouts as Davis pins the edge defender and Garrett Wilson pins the slot corner. Finally, Conklin leads the way as he pulls outside and drives a defensive back out of the play.

A team effort.

Davis deserves kudos for his run blocking this year. Look at him come down and pin the safety inside so Carter can get outside. It’s a forceful blow that completely removes No. 8 from the play. Uzomah also executes a good pin as he motions inside and then blocks the edge defender.

Brown looks nothing like a 37-year-old with a torn rotator cuff on this play. He kicks outside and creates a ton of lateral movement on the defensive back, giving Carter space to work.

Carter does a great job on this 1-yard touchdown run as he takes the handoff laterally, locates a small hole, bursts downfield, and squeezes through. It’s really not the most well-blocked goal-line run. Carter deserves a lot of credit.

Nevertheless, the hole had to be opened somehow. McGovern creates good lateral movement on the play-side 1-technique. I also think Tomlinson is crucial here. Yes, Tomlinson gets pushed back a little too far vertically, but he is able to cross the 2i-tech’s face and seal him to the back side. Carter ends up running between Tomlinson and McGovern for the score.

Hall comes through with a powerful finish for the 5-yard touchdown after the Jets clear out a nice hole for him.

Herbig has a key block here. He shows a good feel for leverage as he lets the linebacker burst outside and then lays a shot on him to clear the inside lane. It’s not the cleanest rep as Herbig ends up laid out on the turf in the middle of the running lane, so Hall has to go over him, but he cleared the lane nonetheless.

Check out McGovern. He explodes out of the snap and crosses the 1-technique’s face, beating him to the spot and sealing him to the back side. Plays like this are what make him a really good center when he’s on his game. He is great at these “hook” blocks where he is required to cross the face of a defender with play-side leverage and seal him to the back side. It’s an ability that goes unnoticed by most fans but is uncommon for a center, and it makes him a perfect outside-zone scheme fit.

It’s McGovern and Herbig who Hall runs through, but also give credit to Vera-Tucker and Brown. Vera-Tucker creates good lateral movement on the front side while Brown prevents his man from scraping down the line and making a play from the back side.

Pass protection film

Against a four-man rush, Zach Wilson gets a cushy pocket to find Corey Davis for a huge fourth-quarter throw. Brown, Tomlinson, and Vera-Tucker get one-on-one wins while McGovern and Herbig dominate in a double-team.

Another good pocket against a four-man rush. Tomlinson and McGovern devour a stunt, putting one man on the ground. Brown sends his man past the quarterback.

The ball is out quick on this play, but with five blockers against five rushers, the Jets easily could have allowed Wilson to get hit. Instead, Wilson is kept clean, and it is mostly thanks to the one-on-one wins by Herbig and McGovern. The five-man rush left Herbig and McGovern in vulnerable positions – on an island with no help – but both men took care of business. Herbig’s victory against Christian Wilkins is particularly impressive.

With six blockers plus a chip from the tight end, the Jets hold up against a six-man rush. Across the board, the Jets’ blockers make good reads and ensure every rusher is accounted for.

Starting on the left side of the offensive line, Uzomah recognizes the blitzing safety and gives him a solid chip to help out Carter. Carter scans for potential threats and correctly identifies the rusher that should be his responsibility. He positions himself well and picks it up.

Brown and Tomlinson do a good job of quickly finding their responsibilities amidst a lot of movement from Miami’s defensive front. Tomlinson passes his man off to McGovern, who picks him up.

On the right side, Herbig is beat to the outside, but not in a disastrous fashion, as Herbig still buys enough time for Wilson to get the ball out. Vera-Tucker wins his one-on-one cleanly.

Give some credit to Uzomah here. Wilson could have been pursued by the defensive end, but Uzomah does a nice job of keeping him at bay, allowing Wilson to roll out and operate without any pressure whatsoever.

There isn’t much to say about the blocking on this play, but I wanted to include it since it showcases how Wilson’s mobility helps Mike LaFleur get creative to take pressure off the offensive line and protect Wilson via the scheme.

When you trust your quarterback to fake a handoff out of the gun and roll away from his offensive line, you can keep him clean without needing the offensive line to do much of anything. That’s what happens on this play, and the Jets ran a few concepts like this one throughout the Dolphins game.

The Jets’ playbook has really opened up since Wilson took over for Flacco. You can call plays for him that you simply cannot call for other quarterbacks, and that helps keep him protected. Wilson’s mobility creates avenues to manufacture protection through the play-call.

Great pass protection was an integral part of Breece Hall’s game-changing 79-yard reception.

The primary stars are Vera-Tucker and Uzomah.

Vera-Tucker is left on an island with no help and plenty of space for his man to rush in any direction he chooses. To make things even tougher, he has to aggressively sell a run fake before converting into a pass-block. This is a very favorable spot for Wilkins to beat Vera-Tucker, but Vera-Tucker pulls off the win with active hands, active feet, and stellar athleticism.

Uzomah sifts across the line to fake a split-zone and has to take on first-round edge rusher Jaelan Phillips in a one-on-one. Uzomah holds up on an island to protect Wilson’s blind side edge (as Wilson’s eyes were focused on the left side).

McGovern provides useful help for his guards. While working to the left, McGovern keeps his right hand in the nose tackle’s chest to slow him down while Herbig comes over to pick him up. Herbig takes over the block and holds up one-on-one in a very important spot, as he is right in front of Wilson. McGovern then helps out Tomlinson by laying a small shot on his man. Tomlinson wins as well.

What a beautiful play for the Jets’ offense. Great play-call, great protection, great throw, and a great playmaker making things happen with the ball in his hands. Poetry in motion.

A strong game for the offensive line

It’s only one game, so we can’t say for certain that the Jets’ offensive line has officially turned things around or that this particular five-man unit is unquestionably the team’s best.

Regardless, it’s difficult for Jets fans to not be excited about what they saw from their team’s offensive front with this new quintet. This week’s performance was significantly sharper than anything the Jets’ offensive line had shown over the first four games. Not to mention, it came against a solid Miami defense that has quite a bit of talent up front and is known for dialing up creative blitz packages.

We’ll see what happens next. For now, this game stands as a tremendous step in the right direction for New York’s offensive line. Everyone played well, and this particular five-man unit appeared to complement one another terrifically.

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1 year ago

Michael- thanks again for taking the time to do these. I can’t believe how much I enjoy watching these clips; it’s addictive to this line play geek!
Yes, I’d stay w/ this line-up until something forces a change (hopefully not).
I care more about Mitchell than Fant for the long term, and now he can concentrate on learning, gaining size/strength, and honing technique.
I do think center is an issue for next yr and Fant will probably be somewhere else or way cheaper than we had thought.

John Spuhler
1 year ago

Awesome article, thank you.

Richard Hausig
1 year ago

If AVT ends up at tackle its one of the greatest trade ups in NFL history. What a player.

1 year ago

Yes, if they are trying to get the “best 5” on the field this is the group. I don’t care about AVT’s arm length at this point. I think this is the best group and they should ride it out. They can’t keep shuffling the OL. If Fant and Mitchell get healthy and they never play a down that’s the best case scenario.

1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

At this point Fant is a back up OT, and I agree his play was concerning to say the least. Brown is a better player than Fant, I hope he can stay healthy but a torn rotator cuff isn’t going to heal itself.

Mitchell showed a lot of promise, and the playing experience will do wonders for him but if we are being honest it was only a matter of time before he was a bit exposed. Also, I wonder how much it frees up the offense to not have to protect the OT’s so much with TE’s and RB’s?

I believe Herbig is still a young ascending player. Ideally, this group stays healthy the rest of the season and they find some flow. I thought I read something a while back about Herbig also being able to play center. You know I’m dying to move on from McGovern, not in season but his contract is expiring maybe they have an “in-house” answer?

1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

71- Great points all. McGovern is definitely an issue to be addressed next yr.
As for Mitchell, most were pleasantly surprised by his performance, I know I was. This year was supposed to be about learning and gaining strength/weight. Now it will be. The experience he did get will be invaluable in his growth.