Stopping the Jaguars’ red-hot offense will start in the trenches for New York Jets
Trevor Lawrence is cooking. Over his last six games, the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback has thrown for 14 touchdowns, 1 interception, and 280.0 yards per game, registering a 70.4% completion rate and a 111.2 passer rating. He might be the hottest quarterback in football.
As always, the best way to stop a red-hot quarterback is to put pressure on him.
Pressuring Lawrence will be a tough challenge for the New York Jets‘ defensive front, as Lawrence throws behind a Jaguars offensive line that has pass-blocked at a high level. Jacksonville’s offensive linemen have been tagged with allowing pressure on only 21.0% of the Jaguars’ pass-game snaps this season, which ranks 7th-lowest among all 32 offensive lines.
However, while the Jaguars’ offensive line is strong as a unit, it does have a couple of holes that the Jets are well-equipped to exploit.
For New York to win the battle of the trenches in front of Lawrence, it is essential that the Jets fully maximize these two particular mismatches.
Carl Lawson vs. Walker Little
Left tackle Cam Robinson has been a big part of the Jacksonville offensive line’s success. Unfortunately, Robinson’s season has come to an end due to a torn meniscus he suffered last week.
That paves the way for Walker Little to join the starting lineup at left tackle, which could be bad news for Jacksonville.
It is a tiny sample size, but Little has allowed 5 pressures over just 30 pass-blocking snaps this season. That is abysmal. It gives Little an allowed pressure rate of 16.7%, which is more than triple the league average for tackles (5.5%) and is the highest rate in the league among 103 tackles who have played at least 30 pass-blocking snaps. Again, that is a very small sample, but it’s alarming nonetheless.
A second-round pick in the 2021 draft, Little does have some legitimate potential. Until he starts tapping into it, though, he is someone that opponents should view as ripe for the picking.
On Thursday, Little’s primary opponent will be Carl Lawson, who plays right defensive end for the Jets.
We broke down Lawson’s struggles this season in an article earlier this week. Lawson is playing like a league-average edge rusher for the Jets, ranking 56th out of 108 qualified edge rushers with a 10.4% pressure rate.
This is the perfect opportunity for Lawson to finally take that next step and get back to playing like the elite difference-maker New York paid him to be.
Not only is Little a struggling and unproven young player, but he is an ideal mismatch for Lawson from a skill-set standpoint.
Lawson has been a pure bull-rusher this year. We have not seen much finesse or variety in his game. Typically, he likes to simply explode off the line and try to bully his man with power.
Little is perfectly constructed to be exploited by Lawson’s rushing style.
Coming out of the draft, Little’s biggest question marks generally had to do with the power-related aspects of his game. Length, core strength, and contact balance were among his primary criticisms.
These concerns are backed up by some of Little’s measurables. He has below-average arm length for a tackle (33.75 inches, 33rd percentile) and posted a mediocre number in the bench press (24 reps, 51st percentile).
This is the exact type of tackle you want to face if you are a power-oriented rusher.
Lawson cannot ask for a better matchup than Little. It would be quite disappointing if Lawson fails to have a signature performance on Thursday night.
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Quinnen Williams vs. Luke Fortner
Without even playing, Quinnen Williams made himself a lot of money against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Williams missed his first game of the season due to a calf injury. All game long, the impact of his absence was apparent. The Jets struggled to generate pressure on Jared Goff and consistently allowed the Lions’ offensive line to create big holes in the running game, especially up the middle.
The Jets’ defensive line typically looks elite with Williams on the field. With Williams sidelined, it looked no better than average. His immense value was proven. Come time for contract discussions, Williams and his camp will surely be pointing to this game.
Sure, the Jets’ defense still ended up allowing only 13 points to one of the league’s best offenses. If they had Williams, though, it’s easy to imagine that the Jets might have held the Lions to a single-digit number.
The Jets are expected to get Williams back into the lineup on Thursday, which is enormously positive news.
Williams will draw a favorable matchup in his return. He will face off against Jaguars center Luke Fortner, who has allowed the second-most pressures among centers this season with 28.
Williams has been a nightmare for centers all season. Even top-notch centers can’t handle him. Look no further than Williams’s success against Bills center Mitch Morse. Williams beat Morse for a sack in each of their two meetings this season. Those are the only two sacks Morse has allowed this season; across 10 games against teams other than New York, he is perfectly clean in the sack department.
Facing off against one of the league’s worst pass-blocking centers on Thursday night, Williams will have a chance to take over the game.
If the Jets are going to stop Trevor Lawrence on prime time, it has to start with Lawson and Williams dominating their favorable one-on-one matchups.