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The 5 biggest tests NY Jets’ offensive line will face in 2024

T.J. Watt, NY Jets Offensive Line
T.J. Watt, New York Jets Offensive Line, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ rebuilt offensive line will face some challenges

Job No. 1 for the New York Jets in 2024 is simple, yet daunting: keep Aaron Rodgers clean. Toward that end, the Jets brought in Tyron Smith, John Simpson, Morgan Moses, and Olu Fashanu to solidify their offensive line.

Relative to previous seasons, the Jets actually do not face such a strong gauntlet of pass rushers. Still, some games will test the Jets’ remade line in multiple ways. Here are the five biggest challenges the line will face in 2024.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers’ defensive line is one of the most fearsome in the NFL year in and year out. It starts with Nick Bosa, the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year. His 16.8% pressure rate in 2023 was the sixth-highest out of 72 edge defenders, and he also ranked seventh-best in Pro Football Focus run defense grade (81.9) and fifth in run stop rate (10.3%).

On the other edge, the 49ers added Leonard Floyd, who led the Bills with 10.5 sacks in 2023. Floyd is infamous in Jets circles, as he was the player to hit Aaron Rodgers and cause the season-ending Achilles tear. He was actually below average as a pass rusher in 2023 (10.5% pressure rate vs. 11.7% edge rusher average), but 46.3% of his pressures were either sacks or hits, the seventh-highest ratio among 72 qualified edge rushers. Floyd continues to make the most of his pressure opportunities, making him a player not to overlook.

On the interior, Javon Hargrave followed up his 11-sack 2022 season with a solid seven sacks in 2023. He ranked 13th out of 77 qualified interior defenders with an 11.6% pressure rate, though his 49.0 run defense grade was subpar. Hargrave could give the Jets’ interior fits as a pass rusher.

The loss of Arik Armstead will hurt this line, as Armstead posted an 11.7% pressure rate in 2023. Maliek Collins is a decent replacement, ranking 26th out of 77 interior defensive linemen with a 9.9% pressure rate. Collins has posted a run defense grade below 55.0 in four of the past five seasons, making that a potential weakness.

The 49ers blitzed at the third-lowest rate in 2023, which means the pass rush consists primarily of the front four. In run defense, linebacker Fred Warner’s 90.7 run defense grade will pose a challenge. Fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw may or may not be back as he recovers from an Achilles injury in the Super Bowl; with a run defense grade of 70.9, he’s not quite as stout as a run defender, but backup Curtis Robinson is untested and could be a significant downgrade if Greenlaw can’t go. The 49ers played nickel 80.3% of the time, so it will primarily be two-linebacker looks against the Jets.

The 49ers’ run defense has its flaws, and it did not face many tests in 2023 due to big leads. Hargrave and Collins are pass-rush-focused, and Floyd is also a below-average run defender.

Surprisingly, the 49ers ranked only 10th in pressure rate as a team in 2023, and they appear to have downgraded. Still, never discount a defense with Bosa and Hargrave.

Buffalo Bills

Despite all the flak the Bills have continued to take for their losses this offseason, their defense still projects to be strong. Greg Rousseau’s 14.9% pressure rate ranked in the 78th percentile among edge defenders, and his 78.3 PFF run defense grade was in the 84th percentile. The Bills picked up Rousseau’s fifth-year option for a reason. He was also a menace to the Jets in 2023, recording seven pressures on 39 pass rush snaps (17.9% pressure rate).

On the other edge, Von Miller appears washed up after posting just a 7.3% pressure rate in 2023. Still, A.J. Epenesa filled in well as a situational pass rusher, posting a 13.1% pressure rate on 221 pass rush snaps.

On the interior, Ed Oliver feasted in 2023, ranking sixth among interior defensive linemen with a 13.4% pressure rate. Oliver had an 18.6% pressure rate against the Jets (8 pressures on 43 snaps). DaQuan Jones was equally effective when on the field with a 14.9% rate, albeit on only 114 snaps.

The Bills ranked fourth in the NFL with 54 sacks in 2023. They’re still a formidable threat in that area.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The last time the Jets faced the Steelers, Pittsburgh was without T.J. Watt — and Zach Wilson was pressured on 37.5% of his dropbacks. Watt was back at full strength in 2023, posting a 15.6% pressure rate (12th among edge defenders), 19 sacks, and an 80.7 run defense grade (8th).

Alex Highsmith can be a nightmare on the other side, as well. His 13.8% pressure rate ranked 24th among edges, and he also had a 79.7 run defense grade (11th). The Steelers have two two-way edge rushers.

On the interior, Cameron Heyward had a down season in 2023 while dealing with injuries, posting just a 6.5% pressure rate. Still, he’s one year removed from an 11.6% pressure rate and 10.5 sacks, and even at age 35 should not be underestimated.

The Steelers added Patrick Queen to their defense, and Queen posted 24 pressures on 107 blitzes in 2023.

In one game against Pittsburgh in 2023, Morgan Moses allowed three pressures, including a sack, on just 16 pass-blocking snaps. John Simpson fared better in two meetings, allowing three pressures (including one hit) on 84 snaps. Still, Moses in particular will have his work cut out for him against Pittsburgh.

Houston Texans

Like the Steelers, the linchpin of the Texans’ defense is their two edge rushers. 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson ranked 19th among edge rushers with a 14.5% pressure rate. He also ranked 14th with a 77.2 run defense grade, making him an excellent two-way edge. On the other side, the Texans added Danielle Hunter, who had 16.5 sacks and a 13.1% pressure rate that was also above the 11.7% average. Hunter is a subpar run defender (51.7 grade) but will bring Houston a pass rush boost.

The Texans added Foley Fatukasi up the middle to help with run defense, and Denico Autry is still dangerous.

New England Patriots

Despite Bill Belichick’s departure, the Patriots’ defense returns several strong players who dealt with injuries in 2023. Matthew Judon had 16 pressures on just 94 pass rush snaps (17% pressure rate) in 2023 before sustaining a season-ending injury, and he posted 15.5 sacks the season prior. From 2021-23, Judon posted 23 pressures on 133 pass rush snaps against the Jets, a 17.3% pressure rate. Josh Uche’s role was diminished with New England in 2023, but he was still productive, posting a 16.3% pressure rate.

On the interior, Christian Barmore is still an above-average pass rusher, ranking 21st with a 10.2% pressure rate. In four career games against the Jets, he has a 14.2% pressure rate, including seven pressures in the Jets’ 15-10 loss to the Patriots in 2023.

The Patriots are just one season removed from tying for third in the NFL with 54 sacks. With Judon back, the Jets should not underestimate that defense even if their offense is putrid.

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