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How did NY Jets’ starting OL perform vs. Giants?

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Mekhi Becton, New York Jets, Getty Images

Four of the New York Jets’ five starting offensive linemen took the field on Saturday

After weeks of drama, the New York Jets‘ Week 1 offensive line has finally taken shape. Mekhi Becton will start at right tackle, Duane Brown is back and will start at left tackle, and the interior trio is fully healthy. All is right in the world. In the end, the summertime drama was much ado about nothing.

In Saturday’s preseason finale against the New York Giants, four of the Jets’ five starters took the field. Brown sat out since he only recently returned to practice. Left guard Laken Tomlinson, center Connor McGovern, right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and right tackle Mekhi Becton all started the game and played three full drives together (14 snaps total). Billy Turner filled in for Brown at left tackle.

What did we see from this unit in its short time on the field?

Well, the answer is not much – in either a good or bad way.

With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Jets called an extremely conservative offensive gameplan. Nathaniel Hackett did his best to keep Rodgers out of danger by calling a litany of quick passes. Rodgers finished the game with a lightning-quick average of 2.34 seconds from snap to throw. In addition, Hackett mixed in two play action bootlegs across Rodgers’ nine dropbacks.

There isn’t much to evaluate from the offensive line on plays like these. If the QB immediately throws a quick fade or rolls out to the back side after a play fake, the offensive line’s role in the play is essentially negated.

In total, the Jets’ first-team offensive line only played three true-pass-set snaps across its 12 pass-blocking snaps on the field. True pass sets are considered plays where the offensive line has to take on a legitimate blocking role – they exclude quick releases, play action, screens, and other factors that would negate the offensive line. So, with only 25% of their pass-block reps being true pass sets, the offensive line was usually a non-factor in the outcome of the play.

While this mostly occurred due to the Jets’ insistence on protecting Rodgers in a preseason game, Rodgers himself also deserves some credit for lightening the load on his offensive line. It goes to show the positive impact Rodgers can have on his blockers.

Take Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, for example. Inexperienced quarterbacks might have stuck with the play-call and handed the ball off against a nine-man box. The run would get stuffed and the offensive line would be criticized. But Rodgers checks out of the play (notice his pre-snap hand signal to Wilson) and chucks up an instant fade to Wilson. The offensive line is spared from an unfavorable situation and gets to enjoy an easy play where they hardly have to do anything.

 

Even if their jobs were typically easy, give the first-team offensive linemen credit for handling their business on Saturday. Across 12 pass-blocking snaps, all five of the Jets’ starters were credited with allowing zero pressures. Don’t start scheduling your February flight to Las Vegas just yet, but it is comforting to see that the unit did not make any inexcusable mistakes in those favorable situations.

In his first start at right tackle, Becton rarely had to handle any true one-on-one matchups in pass protection. The one time he did, he dominated.

As for the run game, the Jets only called three run plays with their starters on the field. Those carries netted two yards (gains of 6, 1, -5) for an average of 0.7 yards per carry.

Overreacting to a three-play sample is silly, but nonetheless, we’ll take a look at those three plays.

Michael Carter gained six yards on the first carry. Vera-Tucker, Nick Bawden, and Becton generate enough movement up front to create space for a healthy gain on first down. The gap closes on Carter before he can reach the second level, but paving the road for a six-yard gain on first down is always a win for the offensive line.

The next carry was a one-yard gain by Carter on first down. The offensive linemen actually do a nice job here of walling off the Giants’ defenders from the play side. Unfortunately, the Giants simply have one more defender than the Jets can block. This could’ve been a one-on-one opportunity for Carter on the edge, but Mecole Hardman cannot sustain his block, allowing a second defender to come in and shut down any possibilities for Carter.

Finally, Carter gets stuffed for a five-yard loss on first down. This one is on Tomlinson. He gets beaten badly by the 1-technique DT, completely shutting down the inside. With nowhere to go inside, Carter tries bouncing outside but goes straight into Vera-Tucker’s man. Carter probably would’ve saved a few yards if he just went up the middle and took whatever he could get, but either way, once Tomlinson lost his rep in the way he did, this play was dead in the water.

Again, it was only three plays, so it’s not worth overanalyzing any of this in either a positive or negative way.

Ultimately, the most important takeaway is the simple fact that these four guys were finally able to get some work in together.

Due to injuries and Becton’s gradual ramp-up, the Jets had been playing musical chairs along the offensive line throughout all of August. Even in practice, opportunities for the starters to play together have been scarce. Saturday provided an opportunity for (most of) the starting offensive line to make up for lost time by gelling in live-game action.

Getting used to playing with Rodgers is arguably even more important for the offensive linemen than gelling with each other. Rodgers operates differently than most quarterbacks (especially in comparison to those who played for the Jets last year). He is an extremely active field general who will constantly change plays, adjust protections, and alter his cadences. Logging some reps with him in a real game under the MetLife Stadium lights was a valuable experience that should help them feel more prepared when September 11 arrives.

This unit is trending in a positive direction following a period of intense scrutiny. For now, all is quiet on the Jets’ offensive front.

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Jonathan Richter
9 months ago

Time to start Tippmann at LG over Tomlinson.

Gary Berman
9 months ago

If this Oline can just be average or hopefully even better, the Jets will be fine.

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