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What’s the NY Jets’ plan for their interior offensive line?

Connor McGovern, NY Jets, Free Agent, Center
Connor McGovern, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets completely lack depth at the position

Over the course of the post-draft offseason, the New York Jets have been continuously linked with several free agents. Justin Simmons has been the most prominent, as was Robert Tonyan before he inked a deal with the Minnesota Vikings. However, one position has been largely overlooked: the interior offensive line.

I’ve written multiple times that I think the Jets will re-sign center Connor McGovern. However, as time progresses with nothing on that front, I’m beginning to wonder whether that will even be the case. Of course, the Jets signed Kwon Alexander and Duane Brown after training camp had already begun in 2022, so it’s still a possibility on the table. Still, the longer it doesn’t happen, the more it seems that it won’t.

Robert Saleh has talked up the experience that multiple young offensive linemen received in 2023. He neglected to mention what the players did with the experience, which was vastly subpar. At the time, I thought he was referring to Carter Warren. Now I suspect that he was talking about some of the interior offensive linemen, as well.

The Jets currently have only one NFL-level backup interior offensive lineman in Wes Schweitzer. While Schweitzer is far from an ideal player, he’s serviceable enough as a backup. After him, though, the only other interior offensive linemen on the Jets’ 90-man roster with NFL experience are Chris Glaser, Jake Hanson, and Xavier Newman.

None of these players performed well when forced into action in 2023. Glaser was seemingly the best of them, though. He appeared in three games, seeing 54 snaps at right guard and 29 at center, while playing 32 snaps in the run game and 51 in pass protection. Glaser posted a subpar 52.6 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade and allowed two pressures (3.9% rate), including a sack, on those 51 snaps. The league average for guards was 5.2% and centers 4.0%, so the rate was not bad in a small sample size.

Hanson saw more action, playing five games at right guard, including four starts. He saw 79 run-blocking snaps and 165 pass-blocking snaps. His 48.7 run-blocking grade was putrid, but his 5.4% pressure rate wasn’t too far off the guard average. Hanson didn’t give up any sacks, either, and his 8.9% true pass set pressure rate also wasn’t too much worse than the 8.4% guard average.

Newman was the worst of the three. He appeared in five games, mostly at right guard, starting three of them. His 55.9 run-blocking grade on 97 snaps was adequate enough for a backup, but his 8.2% pressure rate and three sacks allowed were not.

It’s worth noting, though, that McGovern was quite terrible in his own right when he played in 2023. He had a 62.5 run-blocking grade but a 7.5% pressure rate. His 11.6% true pass set pressure rate was even worse (the position average was 6%). Hanson was better on 165 pass-blocking snaps than McGovern was on 240.

Theoretically, Hanson and Glaser should have an advantage over Newman if that’s the way the Jets want to go. The problem (besides the poor numbers posted by all three) is that none of them can play center. That would leave the Jets in the same situation they faced in the Week 8 Giants game in 2023 — if the starter and backup go down, they need an emergency center.

There are other free-agent centers out there besides McGovern. Connor Williams is the most enticing of the bunch, but he likely cannot pass a physical after tearing his ACL in December. Chances are that he’ll look to sign a contract when he’s recovered. Nick Gates had a 4.6% pressure rate in 2023. The ex-Steeler Mason Cole had a 5.1% pressure rate in 2023. The last time Scott Quessenberry played in 2022, he was even worse at 5.7%. Tyler Larsen blew them out of the water at 7.5% for the Commanders in 2023. Pat Elflein, Jonotthan Harrison, James Ferentz, and J.C. Hassenauer are of a similar caliber.

The only decent options on the market are guards without center experience. Phil Haynes had a 4% pressure rate in 2023, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai was at 3.9% when he last played a full season for the Lions in 2021 (plus a 2.5% rate on 122 pass-blocking snaps in 2023). Greg Van Roten had a 3.3% rate in 2023 but allowed five sacks. Van Roten actually has limited experience at center from 2022.

Still, the Jets might hope that keeping one of Hanson, Glaser, or Newman for cheap is good enough depth. That’s not a great gamble in an all-in season, but without any indications that the Jets plan to add to the unit, that could be their gambit. While offensive tackle was the talk of the offseason, this remains a sneaky hole on the Jets’ roster heading into training camp.

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Jets71
27 days ago

I hope they don’t go back to McGovern. He’s simply not good and has become sort of this security blanket for Jets’ fans. He also doesn’t appear to be the right fit for the new “more physical” approach the team SEEMS to be moving with the OL. I agree the depth isn’t great, again as Jets’ fans we are scarred into thinking we need 10 starting caliber OL’s on the roster which just doesn’t happen.

Players do improve so it IS possible one of those guys makes a step forward into a serviceable back up player. I happen to think Warren can do that, this year, where as it’s a bit of a stretch for the other guys. They can always add a “cut player” later in camp.

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