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NY Jets’ reshuffled OL puts forth another promising performance

Zach Wilson, Laken Tomlinson, NY Jets
Zach Wilson, Laken Tomlinson, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ new offensive line combination is rounding into form

After receiving positive reviews in its debut, the New York Jets’ reshaped offensive line put together another good performance in its second game as a quintet.

The Jets’ starting five offensive linemen combined for a cumulative overall PFF grade of 68.9 against the Patriots in Week 3, which ranked third-best in the NFL that week. In Week 4 against the Chiefs, the starting five combined for a 61.9 overall grade, which ranked 16th.

Despite the decline from Week 3, it is still extremely promising to see this unit perform at a top-half level in back-to-back games after seeing how ugly the original starting five looked back in Week 2 against Dallas. This new lineup appears fully capable of bringing a caliber of play that New York has long lacked from its offensive line.

Overall, over the past two weeks combined, the Jets’ starting linemen have combined for a cumulative overall PFF grade of 65.5, placing third-best in the league over that span behind only the Eagles and Vikings.

The unit has been especially good in pass protection. In PFF’s pass-blocking grade, the unit ranked sixth-best in Week 3 (70.0) and 10th-best in Week 4 (68.1), putting them at fourth-best across the two-week span (69.1).

The run blocking grade faltered a bit in Week 4, ranking 25th (58.6) after placing fifth the previous week (69.0), but since the Jets operated with a pass-heavy gameplan against Kansas City (43 passes to 16 runs), the pass-blocking was far more important in this game, and the group continued to play well in that phase.

Pass-blocking vs. Chiefs

Rookie right guard Joe Tippmann continues to showcase high-level potential. After pitching a shutout in his debut with zero pressures allowed on 42 pass-blocking snaps, Tippmann backed it up with just one pressure allowed on 43 pass-blocking snaps against Chris Jones and the Chiefs. He has allowed the second-lowest pressure rate among guards over the past two weeks (1.2%).

The rest of the unit held up reasonably well, too. Here are the pressure totals for the Jets’ starting five against Kansas City (all five played 43 pass-blocking snaps):

Tomlinson’s shutout is a positive development for the Jets. His season got off to a rocky start, as he was not providing much hope that he’d be better than he was in 2022, but this was a step in the right direction. Perhaps he will benefit from playing beside Becton instead of Brown and the revolving door of liabilities he was beside last year.

McGovern had an okay performance after a rough two-game stretch where he allowed nine pressures. On the season, he leads all centers with 12 pressures allowed. He needs to be better than that for Zach Wilson to build on the performance he put forth against Kansas City. To keep slinging it the way he did against KC, Wilson needs room to step up in the pocket.

Becton is currently tied for the ninth-most pressures allowed among tackles with 13. While that is concerning, PFF’s grading system is more bullish on his pass-blocking performance than his pressure totals, suggesting he has been slightly above average.

Becton has a 65.4 pass-blocking grade this year, which ranks 25th out of 63 qualified tackles. That lines up with what the film shows. Becton does have a tendency to get beat a little too often, but his highs are very high. He has a lot of high-quality one-on-one reps where he dominates on an island for a long duration, often without help.

https://twitter.com/Michael_Nania/status/1709323100347613654

Building more consistency is the key for Becton, which is not surprising for someone who basically missed two consecutive seasons. Becton only has 18 career starts, which means the Kansas City game essentially marked the start of his second season in terms of game experience. Expect Becton to get more and more consistent as the season progresses.

Vera-Tucker’s total of three pressures is the highest he has allowed in five career starts at right tackle, but that’s far from disastrous, and his overall body of work at the position continues to solidify with each game. Vera-Tucker has now allowed five pressures over 144 career pass-blocking snaps at right tackle, which is a pressure rate of 4.17%. For perspective, that would have ranked ninth-best among qualified right tackles last season.

He’s accomplished that despite his quarterback typically having a high time-to-throw. Zach Wilson’s average time to throw in Vera-Tucker’s five starts at right tackle is 3.01 seconds. When you’re giving up a low pressure rate while the quarterback is holding the ball for a long time, it means you’re protecting well. Vera-Tucker’s pass-blocking ceiling at right tackle continues to rise.

Run-blocking vs. Chiefs

Despite the low run-blocking grade and low number of attempts, the Jets’ run game was actually efficient against Kansas City in terms of yards per carry, with the non-quarterbacks averaging 6.7 yards per carry (94 yards on 14 carries). It is worth noting that 43 of those yards came on one Breece Hall run, but the Jets’ weapons still averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry if you take out their best play.

Inconsistency is the reason for the offensive line’s low run-blocking grade in Week 4 despite the solid YPC.

Hall’s big run and a couple of other chunk gains (14 yards by Xavier Gipson and an 11-yarder by Hall) facilitated a good YPC, but the Jets had too many unsuccessful runs. Of the 14 rushes by skill-position players, seven resulted in a gain of three yards or less and six went for two yards or less. The Jets generated positive EPA (Expected Points Added) on just 35.7% of their non-QB runs, ranking 21st in Week 4.

In fairness to the offensive line, they were still dealing with plenty of loaded boxes in yet another game. Unlike in the previous games, the Jets did a good job of punishing the Chiefs through the air this time around, but the line of scrimmage still remained crowded throughout the game.

The rushing numbers are also not being helped by Dalvin Cook‘s abysmal production this season. Not only does Cook look washed-up athletically, but there have been examples of baffling vision on film. On this play, Cook made the offensive line look bad on a play that was actually well-blocked.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cook ranks last among qualified running backs (30+ carries) with -1.7 Rushing Yards Over Expected per carry this season. Hall is first at +3.2. The run game would look significantly better with less Cook.

In addition, it would be a crime to discuss the Jets’ run-blocking without also mentioning the skill position players who are contributing positively to it. Jeremy Ruckert and Allen Lazard have been lifting the Jets’ run-blocking performance to a significant degree. Their impact makes the Jets’ team-wide run-blocking performance a few ranks better than the individual run-blocking performance of solely the offensive linemen.

The Jets’ blocking is trending in a promising direction. Couple that with a resurgent performance from the quarterback along with smart decisions from the offensive coordinator, and there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about this Jets offense going forward.

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