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Ja’Marr Chase or Penei Sewell? NY Jets must make the choice

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The New York Jets have two stark needs this offseason but must choose between them

The Cincinnati Bengals are muddying the narrative for the New York Jets.

After all, Ja’Marr Chase proved that a star receiver is more important than a star offensive tackle, right? Case closed. Mike Evans should be the Jets’ No. 1 target this offseason.

When the Bengals took Chase over Penei Sewell at No. 5 in the 2021 draft, they shocked the world. Sewell was considered the slam-dunk pick at that spot. However, it was Cincinnati who got the last laugh less than a year later when they came within four points of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Or did they?

It’s worth noting that Joe Burrow has sustained two season-ending injuries in four NFL seasons. While that could happen to a team with a strong offensive line, Cincinnati has consistently failed to protect their prized signal-caller.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions picked up Sewell, and their offense has erupted over the past two seasons. Jared Goff looks like a top-seven quarterback in the NFL despite his clear physical limitations. Of course, Sewell is not Detroit’s only stud offensive lineman, but he helped them create an offensive juggernaut.

This offseason, the Jets have two main needs: offensive line and No. 2 receiver. As Michael Nania detailed, they may be able to fill only one of those needs with top-tier players, particularly because they have three offensive line holes.

The Jets can’t fall for the Chase narrative, though. They must prioritize the offensive line, as tempting as it is to think that a star receiver can unleash their offense.

Here’s why.

Rodgers vs. Goff

Nania explained last offseason that Aaron Rodgers has not been an effective passer under pressure for several seasons. His success stems from negating pressure with a quick release rather than playing well under pressure. Specifically, here is the difference between Rodgers’ passer rating when pressured and kept clean from 2020-22.

  • 2022 – 62.6 under pressure (20th of 33) vs. 98.9 when kept clean (19th)
  • 2021 – 67.9 under pressure (20th of 33) vs. 123.7 when kept clean (1st)
  • 2020 – 89.3 under pressure (3rd of 34) vs. 129.7 when kept clean (1st)

Here’s the same breakdown of his accuracy, based on adjusted completion percentage.

  • 2022 – 64.4% under pressure (17th of 33) vs. 78.3% when kept clean (16th)
  • 2021 – 54.5% under pressure (32nd of 33) vs. 82.5% when kept clean (2nd)
  • 2020 – 64.6% under pressure (20th of 34) vs. 84.6% when kept clean (2nd)

Those passer rating numbers mirror Goff’s over the past two seasons.

  • 2023 – 62.5 under pressure (22nd of 33) vs. 114.5 when kept clean (2nd)
  • 2022 – 59.6 under pressure (25th of 32) vs. 113.6 when kept clean (2nd)

Still, Goff was able to post top-tier seasons because the Lions protected him. In 2023, his 35.4% pressure rate ranked 15th, while in 2022, his 29.9% rate ranked 9th.

If the Jets want to get the most out of Rodgers, they must protect him above all else. As Nania pointed out, Goff succeeded with one elite receiver (Amon-Ra St. Brown), an excellent tight end (Sam LaPorta), a top-tier running back tandem (David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs), and decent secondary receivers (Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams). The Jets must add to the number of their weapons, but if they acquire a better second target than Allen Lazard, they can largely match that weaponry.

No. 2 weapon

The one problem with the comparison of Goff and Rodgers is that Goff has a far better top-two pairing of receivers. Amon-Ra St. Brown (1,515 receiving yards) and Sam LaPorta (889) combined for 2,404 receiving yards, the fourth-most among top-two pairings in the NFL. The two of them accounted for 51.1% of Detroit’s total passing yards, ranking 10th among top two pairs.

In 2023, the Jets’ top two in receiving yards were Garrett Wilson (1,042) and Tyler Conklin (622). Their combined 1,664 yards ranked 22nd among top two pairs in the NFL even though their combined 50.4% of the Jets’ yardage ranked 11th.

Looking at those numbers, though, there are two ways the Jets can improve their receiving output: either by adding a different receiver to be in their top-two pairing who will gain more yardage than Conklin (increasing the total receiving yards from their top two weapons), or by adding multiple weapons to reduce the percentage of offense that their top two weapons encompass.

Adding Mike Evans is the simplest way to increase the Jets’ top-two output. Evans posted 1,255 receiving yards, which would have combined with Wilson for 2,297 yards, sixth in the NFL.

Let’s say the Jets add Tyler Boyd and Josh Reynolds to replace Xavier Gipson and move Allen Lazard down to the fourth receiver spot. Boyd had 667 receiving yards in 2023, while Reynolds had 608. Boyd would thereby knock Conklin from the top two pairing, combining with Wilson for 1,709 yards. That’s still not all that impressive; it would keep the Jets in the 22nd spot among top two pairings.

However, the additional 735 yards that the two receivers bring over Gipson and Lazard would have an impact. It would mean that instead of accounting for 50.4% of the Jets’ total receiving yards, Wilson and Boyd would account for 42%. That would rank 26th in percentage of total receiving yards from a team’s top two pairing.

Obviously, this is not a perfect one-to-one comparison; Boyd and Reynolds would likely garner a different number of pass attempts if on the same team. They could also possibly take away receiving yards from Wilson, Conklin, and Hall. On the flip side, 4,005 total passing yards (the number in this scenario) is a reasonable number to expect Rodgers to attain. Therefore, he would simply attain it by spreading the ball around more rather than with a top-two pairing.

This ignores the fact that Wilson could put up far more 1,042 receiving yards with Rodgers at the helm. We’re assuming the exact same production level from Wilson in 2024 — good but hardly elite.

The Jets’ path forward should be clear

As Nania argued, the Jets’ path this offseason should be to beef up the offensive line at all costs. The committee approach to the receiver room makes the most sense. With a top-tier offensive line, they’ll be able to spread around the ball and get the most from the weapons they already have.

There’s a good chance that Wilson and Conklin would combine for far more than 1,664 receiving yards with Rodgers throwing the football assuming he has enough time to get the ball out. Hall, who led all NFL backs with 591 receiving yards, could repeat that mark with Rodgers.

Meanwhile, at age 41, Rodgers will not be able to bail the Jets out of a poor offensive line. The play he got injured on demonstrates this to an extent: he should have gotten the ball out on time but held it a tick too long, resulting in a hit that tore his Achilles. The Jets need to keep Rodgers upright rather than relying on him to completely negate pressure.

Nania’s offensive line plan for 2024 is my preference, although I would draft J.C. Latham over Taliese Fuaga. Kevin Zeitler would also be another option at guard over James Hurst.

One way or another, the Jets’ cap and draft capital should be spent on the offensive line this offseason. Even without a true No. 2 receiver, they’ll be able to create a committee of receivers for Rodgers to throw to — as long as he has the time to get the ball to them.

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Peter Buell
Peter Buell
2 months ago

The Jets have alot of work this offseason and it begins with
A. Aaron Rodgers can give his opinion but be nowhere near the final decisions.
He was 0-5 last year including Hackett. 0-6 if you include him.

B. Jets need to re-structure anyone they can to create more cap space. The unexpected extra space from the league only helps a bit because every team is getting that extra bump.

C. If they can get an extra 1st round pick by trading 2025 assets or even going into 2026. They must do it.
Rodgers will be here two years at most and soon after all the top draft picks will be getting paid.
It’s now or never.

C1. If there is a team as reckless as the Seahawks were in the summer of 2020 who gave us two 1st rounders a 3rd and a player for a 4th for Jamaal Adams, I’d consider trading Sauce for the right deal.
a. Sauce plays a more important position than Adams.
b. Sauce has 3 years left on his rookie deal while Adams recieved the highest safety contract at the time.
Two teams I’d consider who have good Os but thier Ds kept them from going further.
If we’re keeping Huff I’d add JFM to the deal if I can get what I want.

TRADE A.. Lions
Jets get

TRADE B Texans
Jets get: WR Nico Collins…2 years left on 5 rookie years. Broke out in year 3.
Carter Warren “might” ge ready in his year 3 but I’d like to see more.
Anyway, I can’t see any realistic reason to trade AVT.
A few writers have said they were freak injuries.
He can still have a great 10 more years littered with Pro Bowels.

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