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It’s not just pass pro: Tyron Smith brings second weapon to NY Jets

Tyron Smith, NY Jets, Film Breakdown, Run, Stats
Tyron Smith, New York Jets, Getty Images

Tyron Smith won’t just help the New York Jets as a pass blocker

Tyron Smith is best known for his world-class dominance in pass protection. As he prepares for his first season with the New York Jets, Smith’s pass pro is the skill Jets fans are most excited to see from the five-time All-Pro. When Smith is on the field, New York can rest assured that Aaron Rodgers’ blindside will be protected against star pass rushers like Nick Bosa and Matt Judon.

However, Smith’s pass-blocking is not the only asset he brings to the table. He will elevate the Jets’ run game, too – specifically in gap-blocking concepts.

Based on their moves this offseason, the Jets have strongly hinted that they are planning to transition to a gap-blocking scheme on offense, a change of pace from their usual zone-blocking tendencies in recent years. The first signal was their acquisition of two starting linemen from the notoriously gap-heavy Ravens offense, John Simpson and Morgan Moses. When they followed up the Simpson and Moses pickups by signing Smith, it provided further evidence that New York is preparing to heavily increase its usage of gap-blocking concepts.

Why? Because Smith is an elite gap blocker. In 2023, Smith earned an 80.9 gap-blocking grade at Pro Football Focus, placing third-best among all tackles and first among left tackles.

We know Smith will lock down terrifying edge rushers in pass protection. At the same time, he will be grading the road to facilitate powerful downhill runs for Breece Hall, Braelon Allen, and Isaiah Davis. He’s going to be a game-changer for the Jets’ offense in both phases.

Let’s take a look at some examples of Smith’s excellence as a gap blocker in the run game.

Tyron Smith gap-blocking film

Smith wears No. 77.

Having the offensive linemen “pull” is a common theme in gap/power concepts. It’s a great way to create a specific hole for the running back to target. Being an elite athlete for the tackle position, Smith is a phenomenal puller. He is explosive out of his stance, gets out in space quickly, and has the open-field agility to accurately frame his target. All of those traits are displayed on this play.

Smith’s pulling ability is the main reason his gap-blocking grade was so high. He racked up a ton of dominant blocks in space as a puller. More to come.

Down-blocking is another important skill on gap concepts. Here, Smith blocks “down” on the defensive tackle, crunching him into the turf. Coupled with pulls from the right guard and right tackle, it opens up a running lane through the C-gap, directly behind Smith’s back.

Another effective pull, as the RB follows Smith into the end zone. While Smith doesn’t necessarily pummel his defender on this block, what matters is that he took a fast, smooth, and accurate route in space, which helped define a clear lane for the RB.

If Smith had overshot, the DB could have jumped back inside to stop the RB’s cutback. If Smith was late to get outside or took too conservative of an angle, the DB could have breezed past him to get downhill and make a play on the RB. Instead, Smith arrived exactly where he needed to be at exactly the right time, eliminating the DB from the play and creating an easy cutback lane. This play shows how putting an athletic lineman in the open field can naturally create running lanes even if he doesn’t make a highlight-reel pancake block.

Another variation of gap/power blocking is the “duo” concept, which the Cowboys run here. It uses double teams to create vertical displacement on the defensive tackles, allowing the RB to run downhill between the tackles. Contrary to the athletic nature of pulling, this concept calls upon Smith to win with power and aggressiveness.

On this play against the Jets, Smith shows that he can create ideal vertical displacement on a double team. Against Quinnen Williams, Smith and the left guard are able to drive Williams four yards down the field. Even after the left guard comes off the double team to pick up the linebacker, Smith stays attached to Williams and continues driving him downfield. As the RB darts by, Smith keeps his hands attached, successfully preventing Williams from getting off the block and making the tackle.

Another example of Smith’s excellence as a puller. With one shove, he’s able to knock the DB from barely inside of the numbers to the sideline. The sheer power of the block is what pops out, but what makes it possible is the angle he takes. Smith is so good at anticipating angles on these plays, showing an innate feel for where the defender is going to be. He rarely over- or under-shoots his target, which allows him to meet defenders with the ideal leverage to throw a powerful block.

What needs to be said? When DBs see No. 77 charging at them, their lives flash before their eyes.

Each of the previous pulling clips featured Smith against a DB, but this time, he shows he can do it against linebackers, too.

Look how quickly Smith explodes out of his stance. Sheesh. The LB is lined up outside of Smith pre-snap, but before the LB can get a step in post-snap, Smith is already across his face.

Then, we get a tremendous display of Smith’s feel for angles. Despite having outside leverage as he climbs to the second level, Smith does not adjust his angle at all. Why? Because he anticipates the LB will overcompensate to get back outside. Smith continues to climb with his hips at a 45-degree angle toward the sideline, and as expected, the LB goes all-out to try and scrape over top of him. Having perfectly anticipated the block, Smith meets the LB head-on and easily rides the momentum of both himself and the LB to drive him outside.

When double-teaming on a DT, you must be prepared to come off and pick up a LB, and Smith does that here.

First, we see another powerful double team from Smith and the left guard as they drive the DT two yards downfield. While executing the double team, Smith keeps his eyes on the LB. When the LB elects to shoot the gap, Smith detaches and catches the LB before he can shoot through the gap and make a legitimate tackle attempt on the RB. This play doesn’t get many yards, but it’s no fault of Smith, who created significant vertical movement and accounted for the LB to his side.

Tyron Smith is a two-way difference-maker for the Jets

Undoubtedly, Smith’s pass protection is the most important trait he brings to the Jets. Don’t forget about his run-blocking, though. Smith is a true two-way superstar for the Jets’ offense. When he’s on the field, he will strengthen New York’s attack in both phases.

Another note: After combing through Smith’s film for this article, I am even more convinced that the Jets plan to shift toward a gap-heavy run scheme. While Smith’s gap-blocking was outstanding, I thought he was a little shaky on outside zone plays. Smith, Morgan Moses, and John Simpson are all at their best on gap/power plays, whether it’s through pulling or double-teaming. Leaning toward gap/power concepts is clearly the best way for Nathaniel Hackett to maximize the players at his disposal.

So far, the talk of New York becoming a power-running team has been mere speculation. We’ve yet to hear any official commentary on the matter from the coaching staff. Reading the tea leaves, though, I think it’s going to happen – and it would clearly be the right move.

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1 month ago

Has there been any indication from Hackett, Keith Carter, or Saleh that they are moving towards move gap concepts? I know all the signings and two RBs drafted indicate it but part of me worries that Hackett won’t put it together and stick to zone concepts.